January 2, 2011
Q. Was Jesus’ birthday really on December 25th? I heard that his birthday was really in April. Do we really know the real date when Jesus was born? –Anonymous
A. Back in the 4th century the church began to celebrate Christmas on December 25 to replace the popular pagan practice in the Roman Empire of celebrating the birth of the Unconquered Sun. The people used to gather on the current Vatican hill and conducted their pagan rituals to worship the sun. Some historians credit Emperor Constantine for placing the celebration of Christmas on December 25 as the way to forever eradicate the false worship of the sun. Some say that Jesus may have been born around March or April because that’s the time in Palestine when the shepherds would keep watch on their flock and not in December. When I was in Israel a couple of years ago I learned from our guide that sheep need the help of the shepherds when they give birth and that’s why they would stay up in the middle of the night to make sure they were around to help the sheep.
Q. Was Peter celibate his entire life? If procreation is part of our spirituality and part of nature, why is it required for a priest to be celibate? –SBC
A. Peter at one time was married. We know this because Jesus cured his mother-in-law from her illness (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39). There is no record anywhere in scripture that Peter’s wife was still living when Jesus called him to be an apostle so it’s likely that he was a widower. For the second question, one can be both in favor of procreation and be celibate because not everyone is called to the married life. Aside from priests and nuns there are other single and dedicated such as doctors, nurses, etc., who decided not to have a family in order to serve the needs of the poor in the world. As Jesus says, “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:12). St. Paul expresses the beneficial reason for the celibacy in the priesthood. He writes, “I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
Q. Why does the priest mix water with the wine during Mass? –Hannah O’Neill, 8
A. St. Thomas Aquinas gives 4 explanations for this (Summa Theologia III, pars q. 74, 6-8): 1) it was an ancient Mediterranean custom during the time of Jesus and was done at the Last Supper; 2) it signifies that both blood and water flowed from the side of Jesus at the crucifixion; 3) the water signifies the people being one with God (represented by the wine); 4) the water, which in itself is a symbol of life, flows into everlasting life in the chalice of salvation.
January 9, 2011
Q. Dear Grandma says not to eat meat on Christmas Eve. But we always eat roast beef on Christmas Eve. I’m confused! –Betsy
A. The rule on fasting and abstinence on Christmas Eve was before the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The new law does not stipulate fasting and abstinence (from eating meat) on Christmas Eve anymore. Feel free to eat and enjoy your roast beef next Christmas Eve in good conscience!
Q. Is it a sin to make a bad confession? –G. S.
A. Yes. A bad confession means deliberately omitting to mention a mortal sin that a person was well aware of while confessing. In the St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechism (Vol. 2) there is an excellent example of a picture of a young boy holding three mortal sins going to a confessional box. But he deliberately confessed only two of the mortal sins to the priest. As a result he walked out with FOUR mortal sins because he was not forgiven of any sin but instead added the sin of a bad (dishonest) confession. It is important to note that venial (lighter) sins are not required to be confessed but we are encouraged to do so. It is not a bad confession if we don’t mention every single venial sin at confession.
Q. Would it be possible to remind adults that the Narthex (vestibule, entrance area) is a place of worship? People talk, walk around, and interrupt the Mass. I understand the children are there and make noise but the adults have no excuse. As a parent who brings my crying children there I find it difficult to hear over the other adults. (Hint: start with the ushers and sales people). --Anonymous
A. You’re absolutely right. The narthex area acts as a makeshift cry room for parents with small children but it remains a worship space while Mass is still going on. I will share your note at our staff meeting and with everyone involved with the after Mass activities in the narthex. I appreciate that you brought this up because there are others who have verbally mentioned the same observation.
Q. Should we try to make heaven on earth? –Anonymous
A. Absolutely! God wants us to be happy here on earth and to look forward to eternal happiness in heaven. After God created Adam and Eve he blessed them and said, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth. God also said: ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food” (Genesis 1:27-30). The only thing God asks us is to be faithful to his commandments: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jesus, John 14:15).
January 16, 2011
Q. How many Catholics are there in the world? –Kayleigh Grady, age 7
A. According to the 2008 church report there are about 1.17 billion Catholics in the world or 17% of the world’s population. And a little less than 7,000 of those Catholics are registered right here at Saint Francis deSales Parish.
Q. Is there a difference between a Catholic and a Christian? –Anonymous
A. All Catholics are Christians. But not all Christians are Catholics. A Christian simply means someone who believes in Jesus Christ and is baptized. Catholics are the original Christians. The church Jesus founded with the apostles is the same Catholic Church that we belong to today. In the early part of history all Christians were Catholics. The successor to Peter the apostle as head of the church and Bishop of Rome is called the pope. The forming of different denominations did not start happening until several centuries later.
Q. According to Vatican II writings/changes, should women still be wearing head coverings during Mass? –Anonymous
A. The Vatican II documents did not address the issue about women hearing head coverings for Mass. It is not required nor is it prohibited. Some Catholic women still love to wear their head coverings at Mass (including my mom!).
Q. One of my friends has been unemployed for a long time and his estranged significant other has evicted him. He tried to go to a Christian church for temporary housing help but they will help only with strings attached (i.e., he must join their church). Would the Catholic Church do the same thing? How would we be different? –SBC
A. The Catholic Church makes no distinction regarding helping the needy regardless of their faith. We follow the Gospel teaching of Jesus that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. We believe that how we treat others is how we treat Christ. As Jesus says, “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Q. Why do people turn their palms up to pray the Our Father at Mass? Why do they lift their hands higher at the end of the prayer? –Anonymous
A. No one seems to know the answer to this except that it started happening after the late 1960’s. The rubrics (Mass instructions) do not instruct the congregation to do that. My guess is that some started to imitate the priest’s extended hands during the Lord’s Prayer and it caught on from there. Why some lift their hands up high at the end of the prayer is also a mystery to me. (Perhaps some believe that’s what one is supposed to do during a high Mass!)
January 23, 2011
Q. What does the “IHS” on the altar cloth stand for? –Olivia, age 7
A. The initials stand for the ancient symbol for the first 3 letters of Jesus in the Greek language. In the Latin Rite of the Church (most Catholics belong to this rite, including us) the early Christians took the 3 Greek letters of Iota-Eta-Sigma to form the Latin equivalent of IHS.
Q. In football there is a maneuver known as the ‘Hail Mary pass.’ This term seems disrespectful to the Blessed Mother. Should we as Catholics refrain from using the term? –Anonymous
A. I’ve wondered about this myself for years but have not seen a single theological writing against it. It does not appear to be disrespectful because in a way it gives testimony to Catholic belief that yes, in desperate situations, one should call upon Our Blessed Mother by praying the Hail Mary for a miracle. It could also encourage football enthusiasts to look up just exactly what a Hail Mary is and hopefully they will pray it more regularly. I look at it with humor knowing that other than Catholics there is another religion (Sunday football) that prays the Hail Mary! The one football reference term I’m uncomfortable with is the one that was used for the Steeler running back Franco Harris’ unlikely pass reception in what became known as the immaculate reception (Dec. 23, 1972). Immaculate means spotless and without blemish as it is properly used to describe Our Lady. While the Harris’ reception was impressive and resulted in a game-winning touchdown, and I’ve enjoyed watching its replay for years, there was nothing ‘immaculate’ about it. The play was unplanned and the result of pure luck. The term immaculate reception would never have been used had it not been for the sacred dogma of the Catholic Church that we revere as the Immaculate Conception, which was not the result of pure luck, but a perfectly planned salvific effect by the creating hand of God.
Q. Father, last week I played the $380 million dollar Mega Millions lottery. I prayed to God to please allow me to win, and if so, I would donate the remaining amount of money for our parish needs for our building fund. How come my prayer wasn’t answered? –Anonymous
A. First of all, I really appreciate your intention very much and I hope you continue to keep playing and to remember your promise to God to help our parish if you do win in the future. We really need the funds badly to complete our new parish center. In response to your question, God did answer your prayer. He said, “No!” We have to remember that God hears all our prayers and sometimes the best response for us is an answer of no. But don’t be discouraged because that could just simply mean that God is saying, “No, not at this time.” We should never be afraid to ask God for good things no matter how big they are. At times God delays answering our prayers until we have prayed for a longer period of time. Sometimes it’s simply not the right time. Most importantly, if God sees that it will get in the way of our salvation, obviously, he will not grant our petition that will result in losing our soul. Regardless, if we prayed for something with the right intention and did not receive it, God will grant us something at least of equal value to our original petition. That’s how Jesus keeps his promise, “Ask anything in my name and I will do it” (John 14:14). [Friendly hint: “You gotta play to win!”]
January 30, 2011
Q. What day was the church made? –Sucie Jones
A. I’m not sure whether you meant when the universal Catholic Church was made or when St. Francis deSales parish was first established so I’ll try to answer both. The day considered being the birthday of the Catholic Church was on the first Pentecost Sunday some 2,000 years ago. After the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and Our Lady, the apostles began to openly proclaim the Gospel that led to the conversion and baptism of numerous people. The Catholic Church membership grew rapidly after that. As far as our own St. Francis deSales Church, we were first officially established as a parish on September 1, 1967 and the current church we have was dedicated on June 28, 1992.
Q. Do you memorize the Mass and the stuff you say in church? --Tabita R.
A. We use a Roman Missal (red book on the altar) that contains all the prayers needed to celebrate the Mass. There are so many prayers it is really not possible to memorize all of them. As far as the stuff we say, which you probably meant the homily, we (priests) prepare what we say to the people at church based on the readings for the Mass. What I do is read the readings for the upcoming Sunday and pray what God wants me to say. I often try to read the explanations of the Bible readings as explained by the saints and other expert Bible commentaries recognized by the church to help me decide what to say. I then jot some notes and imagine how I may deliver the message that would seem most helpful to the people in church. It may sound kind of strange but this is how I know I’m ready to preach. After praying, I would picture myself preaching with Jesus in the audience. Once I could do that without looking at my notes then I feel like I am good to go. That’s the reason why you won’t often see me looking down to read when I’m preaching unless I need to read an exact quote from a source. Did you know there was a time when I was so afraid of speaking in public that I would get sick to my stomach and even stutter a bit whenever I was asked to read in front of people? God helped me overcome this problem over the years and now big crowds don’t bother me at all!
Q. I have been praying the Rosary for the last couple of months but not sure I am doing it correctly. I have found a couple of different versions. Can you help me with the order of the prayers? Also, help me to understand why we use the Rosary, its importance, and the importance of the individual prayers. –Anonymous
A. It would be too long to describe the Rosary prayers even though they really are very simple. Little kids learn the Rosary by simply praying it often with an adult. We have How To Pray The Rosary pamphlets in the narthex and in the parish office if you need one. Here’s a simple website Rosary tutorial that you can also use as a guide: www.rosary-center.org/howto.htm. The mysteries of the Rosary (there are 20 in total) summarize the life of Jesus Christ. The main prayers are the basic Catholic prayers that we learned through our catechism studies (Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be). These prayers are very powerful because the contents come from the mysteries revealed by God himself to us especially through scriptures. The Rosary has been prayed for several centuries in the Catholic Church. The current format we’re using can be traced back to St. Dominic in 1214 A.D. This simple prayer has helped numerous people in their needs and that’s why we’re encouraged to pray it often.
February 6, 2011
Q. Who do priests confess their sins to? –Anonymous
A. Just like everyone else, all priests have to go to another priest for confession. When I was a kid I had the same question. I had this crazy idea back then that if I became a priest I thought I could just look in the mirror and absolve myself--not!
Q. My grandma past away. What could be a sign that she is now in heaven? –Anonymous
A. The best sign for those who have died if they are in heaven is really how they lived their life here on earth. Good loving people who believed in God, went to church regularly (receiving the sacraments regularly for Catholics), and did the best to respect everyone have the best signs of being in heaven. There really isn’t anything else out there that could determine who is possibly in heaven and who is not. It is very rare that the church declares someone a saint. The recognized saints are the only ones we know for sure by name who are now in heaven. But keep praying for your grandma because your prayers are like sending gifts of spiritual gifts to her. She would love lots of them.
Q. I made my first big mistake in my life—‘sexting’! I knew it was wrong but it was hard to stop. I prayed so much for help and to be freed [from it]. I am now living the consequences. I feel so alone right now and there is no ‘redo’ button on life. I have no idea what to do now. –Anonymous
A. Do not lose hope! Jesus will always love you and will help you get through your most difficult time. This is a great opportunity for you to learn to trust in him. The best thing you can do, if you have not done so, is first to go to confession. Once the priest absolves you all of your sins are forgiven. At least with God you’ll be in good shape right away and it will make the path less difficult for you to deal with the aftermath of what happened. There is no ‘redo’ button in the world but there is always one with God (confession). Pray and talk to God silently and frequently in your own words. It won’t be long after that when you will experience his helping hand. God speaks silently to us when things are going well but he’s like screaming to us in times of dire needs to let us know that he’s there and always ready to help. Feel free to contact me in private if you need to talk more about this or swing by the confessional sometime if you prefer.
February 13, 2011
Q. Where does the Catholic Church stand on the practice of yoga and other such forms of exercise? –Anonymous
A. Yoga or any other form of a physical exercise in itself is not opposed to the Catholic faith and often has helped many maintain good health. But if the person advocates its pagan beliefs (and false gods) then it becomes opposed to our faith. The First Commandment is very clear about not having false gods as part of our spiritual practice. In the past there have been Catholics and other Christians who were fell out of their faith and adopted pagan gods and philosophies.
Q. During the consecration I see some touch their hearts 3 times. What does this signify? When and how did it start? Is it acceptable to do this? –SBC
A. This is done as a sign of humility acknowledging one’s unworthy presence before the real presence of Jesus Christ. In the Traditional Mass, the priest and the congregation recite the “Domine, non sum dignus” prayer (Lord, I am not worthy) 3 times while striking the chest each time. This is likely the origin of the practice. It is acceptable to do this act of reverence since the church has never discouraged its practice and it has been around for centuries.
Q. Who were the ‘Holy Innocents’ and about how many were there? –Andrew Donofrio
A. The Holy Innocents were the children killed by King Herod mentioned in Matthew 2:16-18. When Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of a new king he felt threatened of losing his throne and ordered the killing of children 2 years and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Bethlehem was a small town during the days of Jesus and one Catholic Encyclopedia (1910 version) claims that there may have been somewhere between 6-20 children in Bethlehem that were killed and another dozen or so in the nearby areas.
Q. Why do you keep Jesus in the tabernacle? –Sucie Jones
A. The main reason is to keep some of the Eucharist available for the sick that cannot make it to Mass. The priest and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist would bring the Eucharist to the sick sometime after Mass. Another reason is during Mass there are usually leftover Eucharistic hosts after communion and they need to be reposed in a secure place for the next Mass. Also, at least one Eucharistic host is kept in the tabernacle so that people can come to church and pray before the real presence of Jesus.
February 20, 2011
Q. Is it irreverent to make the sign of the cross with your left hand? –Anonymous
A. If a person has two hands the sign of the cross should be done with the right hand. There is a religious significance with the right hand as mentioned in scriptures. Mark 16:19 reads, “The Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” Here are other references to the right hand of God if you’d like to read them: Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:44, 26:64, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:34, 7:55 and 1 Peter 3:22. The word for left in Italian is “sinistra” where we got the word sinister. In the final judgment described in Matthew’s Gospel (25:31-46) Jesus placed the good people next to his right hand and the bad people on his left.
Q. When we say “…only say the word and I shall be healed,” what is the ‘word’? –Anonymous
A. What that means is all Jesus needs to do is will it or command that one be healed and that person will be healed. It is not a reference to a specific word, just a figure of speech.
Q. Why are there 2 Johns in the New Testament? –A. W., 5th grade
A. Because they came from two different moms and they were both given the same name. John the Baptist’s mother was Elizabeth, the cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and John the Apostle was one of the two sons of Zebedee whose wife is traditionally identified as Mary Salome (not the same Salome whose mother asked Herod to have John the Baptist beheaded). She was the good Salome who was believed to have been a faithful follower of Jesus (we’ll call her “Mrs. Z” as a safe reference point!).
Q. Do priests miss being with their family? How often do you see yours? –Anonymous
A. Yes, we do miss our family at times but we understand that we are also called by Jesus to spiritually take care of God’s family. Fortunately, my parents live nearby in Maryland less than an hour and a half driving from Purcellville. I try to see them every other week. I also have siblings in California and I usually visit them once a year.
Q. Do priests watch TV about Jesus? –Anonymous (written in a cute kid’s handwriting)
A. Yes, sometimes. My favorite TV movie about Jesus is simply titled, “The Jesus Film.” It was produced back in 1979 and has been translated in more than 800 languages/dialects. It is estimated that more than 4.7 billion people have watched this film in 236 nations. The movie on the life of Jesus was taken from the Gospel of Luke. If anyone is interested in borrowing my 25th anniversary commemorative edition DVD copy just let me know. I may need a collateral to make sure I get my priceless DVD back (a set of keys from your family’s primary vehicle or vacation home will do).
Q. How do you know there is only one God? –Anonymous
A. There is still, and always will be, only one God because somebody named Lucifer (aka satan) already tried to be a second god and it didn’t work. He got thrown out of heaven big time and into the everlasting fires of hell along with his supporting cast of angels (so it’s best to be careful who we hang out and support). Needless to say, satan and his demons have been “fuming” ever since!
February 27, 2011
Q. I heard in Father Tewes’ homily that priests have no salary. What about the pope and/or bishops do they get a salary? –Andrew Donofrio
A. Priests in religious orders take the vow of poverty, which means they cannot own anything under own name, (e.g., Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, etc.) do not get a salary. However, their order takes care of all their needs (clothing, car, personal items, etc.). Diocesan priests get some salary and do not take the vow of poverty because we are required to take ownership of certain things in order to take care of our individual needs. It is our responsibility to provide for our own vehicle, clothing and other personal needs. The diocese also provides us a rectory to live in (with food) and health insurance. The money we save from our salary and the gifts (especially at Christmas) we receive from parishioners are also used for saving/planning our retirement. Bishops get a similar priest’s salary but the pope does not get one. An article in the Washington Post a few years ago profiled the clergy’s salary from different denominations in the Washington area. The Catholic clergy was on the bottom next to the small non-denominational clergy. This is one category rating priests can live with being down at the bottom!
Q. If a Catholic attends a Protestant service (not in place of Mass) and communion is offered, are they permitted to partake with full knowledge that it is only symbolic versus the true presence? –Anonymous
A. No. Our understanding of communion is beyond just the belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Partaking in communion means we believe in the entirety of the faith offered by the worshiping community. A Catholic Mass offers communion only to those who believe the entirety of the Catholic beliefs. It is the reason why we cannot have intercommunion with people from other faiths. When we have to be in the presence of a non-Catholic service that offers communion, we are not in communion with their beliefs and therefore we abstain from a symbolic communion with them. By virtue of their non-Catholic beliefs they reject at least parts of essential Catholic doctrine. As Catholics it is a serious sin for us to compromise any part of our doctrinal beliefs. While we wholeheartedly respect other people’s faith we do not confuse ours with theirs by symbolically taking communion with them.
Q. I have an aunt (non-Catholic Christian) who has been divorced and is remarrying. She doesn’t have the sacrament of Penance. How will God forgive her? –Anonymous
A. Her faith calls her to confess directly to God. Since she does not have a minister giving her absolution to guarantee forgiveness she can only hope that God has forgiven her. Our sacrament of Penance guarantees that we have been forgiven—lucky us!
Q. If a Catholic in good standing with the Church wants to marry a divorced Protestant what must happen first? Assume that the previous Protestant marriage was between 2 baptized Protestants. –Anonymous
A. The Catholic Church accepts a marriage between 2 baptized Protestants as a sacrament on the same level as a Catholic marriage. For a Catholic to marry the divorced Protestant, the Catholic Tribunal in order for that person to marry the Catholic must first grant an annulment to the former Protestant marriage.
March 6, 2011
Q. Who writes the prayers written in the Breaking Bread (misalette) especially the prayers just before the consecration? –Anonymous
A. Those prayers come from the current Sacramentary (1970 edition), the same red book the priest uses at the altar. That book contains all the prayers needed for the celebration of the Mass for the entire year. The church’s liturgical commission composed the prayers and the new revised English version will be used beginning on the First Sunday of Advent (November 27, 2011).
Q. One of my vegetarian friends justifies this eating habit by citing Genesis 1:29. I simply interpret this that we can feed animals grain. What do you say? –SBC
A. While there is nothing wrong with being a vegetarian, your friend also misinterprets that verse in Genesis. God does not restrict that animals and humans eat only “all the green plants for food.” If your friend continues to read the rest of the Bible he/she will find out that God allowed the Jews to eat meat such as lamb for the Passover and provided quail for them in the dessert during their journey to the Promised Land. In Acts 10:9-16 St. Peter saw a vision of several animals including once that God had forbidden the Jews to eat. God ordered him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat…. What God has made clean, you are not to call profane” (10:13, 15). And let’s not forget that Jesus fed over 5,000 people by multiplying the loaves in the fish (John 6).
Q. Why is the Vatican so filled with gold when the money could be used to feed the poor? –Anonymous
A. God does not object to using gold to decorate a worshiping house in his honor. In 1 Kings 6-8 you will see how God commanded Solomon to use a lot of gold for the building of the Temple in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant (God also asked the ark constructed out of gold, Exodus 25). Jesus visited the Temple several times and never once complained about the gold in there but kicked out corrupt merchants who were doing trade inside. The gold in the Vatican especially at St. Peter’s Basilica is to give glory to God and to provide a beautiful public worship for God’s faithful as the Temple of old. Anyone can go to St. Peter’s at the Vatican everyday for free to visit and pray from 7 AM to 7 PM. I have been there several times and it is a great place for prayer. It is like getting a foretaste of heaven when you see the magnificence of the church work done by some of the great masters of art and architecture. How many beautiful buildings filled with gold, bronze and marble with great artwork can you visit to for free? Selling all the gold in the Vatican to feed the poor will not solve the world’s hunger at all. The sale of the gold would probably feed the world’s hungry for about a week and then what? You would have just gotten rid of a public church and the faithful will no longer have a beautiful church they can claim as their own. Right now even the poorest of the poor who is baptized can claim St. Peter’s as their church by virtue of being a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Q. If you don’t believe in Jesus but celebrate Christmas, will you go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. No, you also need to believe in God and do what is right to enter the kingdom of God.
March 13, 2011
Q. If you do something bad like break an antique lamp, would you still have to go to confession if it happened before your first confession? –“Wondering”
A. Since you didn’t mention your age I’m guessing you made your First Confession at 2nd grade or around age 7. In that case you don’t need to confess it because you were probably too young to irresponsibly break an antique lamp. But if you made your First Confession when you were in middle or high school and broke the lamp irresponsibly, let’s say when you were in 7th grade, it would be a good idea to confess it. And if your parents find out you’re the one who broke it they may even make you pay for it!
Q. Why do we not eat meat during Lent? –Anonymous
A. It is only on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent (including Good Friday) that we abstain from eating meat. It is optional to give up eating meat for the whole season of Lent. Jesus in his preaching asked us to do penance so the church designated a season (Lent) for us to do penance that include prayer, fasting, almsgiving and abstinence from meat. The significance of giving up meat on Friday is due to Jesus giving up his own flesh to save us from our sins on Good Friday. It is our way of sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Meat, specifically land meat, in many countries is far more costly than fish and in some cultures treat as luxurious food. Giving up meat by eating fish or non-meat such as vegetables is a way of eating a simpler meal on a penitential day.
Q. How do you forgive a parent that has been verbally or emotionally abusive to you as a child and then as an adult? –Anonymous
A. It is a very difficult act of love to forgive someone like that. To love is a choice that we make everyday. It is not something that just automatically happens. It is much easier and can even be effortless to love people who love us very much. But God asks us to love even our enemies. This is made possible by the grace of God without which we can do nothing morally good. God forgives even the most horrible sinners if they repent. It would help your offending parent a lot if you regularly pray for him or her to receive the grace of forgiveness and enlightenment for what he or she has done to you. Even though it is difficult, everyday you have to choose to love your mother or father. We don’t always know what troubles or demons certain people have that cause their unfortunate behavior. We can only hope that they will change or at least someday find forgiveness for their sins and failures. Your prayers and acts of love will go a long way in making that happen. Meditating on the life of Jesus, especially during his Passion, will also help you a lot specifically when recalling his prayer for his enemies, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). You might also find it helpful to read the book written by Archbishop Aymond, “Facing Forgiveness: A Catholic's Guide to Letting Go of Anger and Welcoming Reconciliation.” You can try and order this at the Christian Shoppe in Purcellville.
Q. Is it a sin to intentionally go to a specific Mass to avoid a particular priest or see one particular priest whom you get more out of his homily? –SBC
A. Um, no. Been there, done that!
March 20, 2011
Q. Why are Catholic Churches named after saints? --Emily McCaffrey
A. Some Catholic Churches are named after Jesus (e.g., Sacred Heart, Holy Name, Blessed Sacrament, Good Shepherd, Holy Redeemer, etc.) but others are named after saints because we give honor and glory to God when we honor his heroes who are now in heaven. It is similar to how we honor our nation by naming important monuments, buildings and parks after our country’s heroes. Schools are also named after certain people who have significantly contributed to the nation or the community where the school was built. During the days when nations were commonly ruled by kings you couldn’t just go directly to the king when you have special needs. You needed to find a patron (friend) of the court to sponsor you and speak on your behalf to the king. When a Catholic Church is named after a patron saint, it is in the same spirit of having a patron or sponsor who would look out for our needs before the King of King’s court. Isn’t it great that when we get to the kingdom of heaven we’re going to live as members of God’s royal family and have Jesus as our king and Our Blessed Mother as our queen?
Q. If a person does not believe or has never heard of Christ, can he or she go to heaven or be saved? –Anonymous
A. Yes, salvation is possible for non-Christians. Jesus died for everyone on the cross. Those who have never heard of Jesus but lived a good life and worship a god whom they thought was the true God can still attain salvation. We refer to this as baptism by desire. They are not saved by their false God but by the merits of Christ’s church. The Catholic Church identifies this as invincible ignorance (Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1793).
Q. Where is the soul located in the body? –Anonymous
A. The human soul is an immaterial spirit and coexists with our whole living body. When the body dies the soul completely leaves the body and returns to God for judgment.
Q. What happened to Jonah after God destroyed his hut (actually, it was his plant)? –Anonymous
A. In the Old Testament the famous Jewish minor prophet was sent to preach to the gentile Assyrians in Niniveh. He did not want to go there because the Assyrians were historically a hated enemy of the Jews. But scripture tells us that God wanted him to preach repentance to the sinful Ninevites and arranged for his adventurous trip with Belly-up Travel for a ‘whale-of-a-ride’ to get there. To Jonah’s surprise the Ninevites listened to his preaching and did penance and fasting for their sins. God relented on his punishment and Jonah sat outside east of the city complaining to God for sparing the lives of the Assyrians. He was hoping to see their population destroyed by God right before him. God showed his disappointment with Jonah by allowing the plant that provided him shade from the sun to die. The lesson we learn from this is that we should not hold a grudge over people even if they are our own mortal enemies once they repent and have a conversion of heart. There should be rejoicing in our hearts when sinners repent and return to God.
March 27, 2011
Q. If you are allergic to all seafood and dairy, what can you eat on the days of abstinence during Lent? I could pick up something to better myself instead of the meat abstinence but I was advised to renew this every time I got a new pastor. –Anonymous
A. How about eating vegetables or meatless pasta? There are vegan recipe books available with menus that strictly abstain from all meat and dairy products. That may be the solution to your Lenten observance. Some of the vegan recipes look delicious!
Q. Are Adam and Eve saints? Are they in heaven? –Daniel, age 7
A. Everyone in heaven is a saint. The Bible does not mention that Adam and Eve are in heaven and that’s the reason why we don’t refer to them as St. Adam or St. Eve. The Bible also seems to indicate that they lived faithfully after they left the Garden of Eden so we presume that they are in heaven.
Q. When our loved ones die and go to heaven, people always say to talk to them. Can they hear us and see us like the angels and saints of God? –Anonymous
A. As mentioned in the previous question, everyone in heaven is a saint. Since the church teaches that the saints in heaven can hear us when we speak to them in prayer, then it follows that our loved ones can also hear us in heaven when we speak to them!
Q. Did Pontius Pilate feel bad for Jesus? –Aidan Connor Klavon
A. Yes, he even offered to save his life but the crowd rejected the offer and demanded instead the release of a notorious prisoner named Barabbas (Matthew 27:15-26).
Q. If you promised someone to do something and it was a sin and you did it, would you or the other person be sinning? –Anonymous
A. If you both knew it was a sin and you did it, then you both are guilty of sin.
Q. Can you not eat just before Mass itself or 1 hour before communion? –Anonymous
A. The Eucharistic fast is 1 hour before communion (not before Mass begins).
Q. Which is better, lying to make someone feel good or telling them plain out what you think? –Anonymous
A. Telling them the truth is always the best choice. God never approves of lying just to make someone else feel good.
Q. If you sleep in church, isn’t it like Jesus sleeping in heaven? –Anonymous
A. No, because nobody sleeps in heaven including Jesus! Jesus doesn’t really want us to sleep in church because in time of prayer he wants us to stay awake. In the garden of Gethsemane St. Peter fell asleep when he’s supposed to be praying and Jesus told him, “So you could not watch (pray) with me for one hour?” (See Matthew 26:36-46)
[I forgot the last line in response to last week’s question about what happened to Jonah after his plant died. The answer is we don’t know because the Bible does not say what happened to him. He probably went back home to Israel.]
April 3, 2011
Q. In the story of the blind man, why did Jesus put mud on his eyes to heal him? –Hannah, age 8
A. The Gospel account is from John 9:1-41 and is the reading for this Sunday’s Mass. Jesus cured a man’s blindness by placing mud on his eyes and telling him to wash it off at the pool of Siloam. The Church traditionally explains this is as a symbol for baptism. The mud represents our (original) sin that has caused the imperfection in our bodies and both physical and spiritual blindness. The washing off of the mud symbolizes the cleansing of our soul and spiritual blindness that allows us to see God in a new light of faith after baptism.
Q. Should we pray for the souls of suicide bombers or is it too late for them? –Beth Hogan
A. It is never too late to pray for anyone. Only God knows the fate of the dead. If they are in purgatory then they could certainly use our prayers.
Q. What does ‘INRI’ mean on the crucifix? –Anonymous
A. It stands for the Latin words, IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews).
Q. Do you know what type of wood the cross was made from? –Andrew Donofrio
A. Due to its proximity to Jerusalem the cross was likely to be olive wood. Scientific analysis of what the Church believes to be the remaining relics of the true cross (kept in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Church in Rome) affirms this. There is a popular fictional legend that suggests the cross was from a dogwood tree. After the crucifixion the dogwood supposedly became smaller in size and the branches curved so that they could no longer be used for crucifying again. The petals also purportedly show the image of the cross on it.
Q. What is holy water? –Anonymous.
A. Holy Water is regular water that has been blessed by a priest. It is one of the many sacramentals in the Catholic Church. It is used for blessing ourselves, religious articles, animals, homes, cars and just about everything you could think of.
Q. Is it a sin to play the lottery? –Anonymous
A. No, as long as it is not overly done as to harm your financial situation. Actually, we’re currently ‘selling’ lottery tickets at our parish right now. Have you heard of the Knights of Columbus sponsored multi-parish car raffle? Benefits from this will go to the building of our parish center.
Q. Why do we call you a priest and not ‘little Lord’? –Anonymous
A. Priests offer sacrifices to God and since Catholic priests offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to God then we are truly and rightfully called priests. The title ‘Lord’ in the Bible is commonly a reference to God. Since priests are not ‘little gods’, then we can’t really be called ‘little Lords’. (I got a nice smile out of this cute question!)
April 10, 2011
Q. What is the Catholic belief concerning reincarnation? –Anonymous
A. Reincarnation is a false belief because it is totally opposed to the resurrection. Jesus revealed that after we die our souls would be reunited with our bodies at the end of time. After death we do not become another animal or another person or any other living thing. Every new person in the world was conceived as a new unique person in the image and likeness of God and not a remake of a former living person in the past. If people were reincarnated, who would they be judged as at the Final Judgment? Reincarnation also gives the false impression that the people who did not live well in the world will get another chance to become better in a new life. What Jesus taught us was that we would give an accounting of our every thought, word and deed immediately after we die. Our ultimate final destiny after death is either in heaven or hell. (See Romans 14:9-12)
Q. How come the teenage years of Jesus are not spoken of? –Anonymous
A. We don’t really know for certain the answer for this. But don’t hold your breath that it’s because Jesus had the typical wild teenage years that we see among our teens today that the scripture writers didn’t want to write about! We do know that Jesus loved his parents and had a good life with them because the last account of his youth mentions that he had great respect for them: “He (Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:51-52).
Q. Why do you place the square thing over the chalice at Mass? What is that called? –Andrew Donofrio
A. That’s called a pall. It is shaped as a square and placed over the chalice. Its original purpose was to keep the dust and flying bugs from getting into the chalice. In many places especially during the warm weather there are invasive critters who would like to take a sip from the chalice regardless of whether it is consecrated wine or not!
Q. The Holy Eucharist is Our Lord’s body, blood, soul and divinity. For this reason, would it be considered eating meat when we receive Holy Communion on a Friday? –Anonymous
A. Excellent question! When we are asked to abstain from meat on Friday (especially during Lent) it is in reference to land animal flesh meat. To put it bluntly, we abstain from “dead meat”. Jesus in the Eucharist is truly alive in his real glorified presence and we are not consuming dead meat but the “living bread that came down from heaven” to give us eternal life (John 6:51). When we consume the Eucharist it is God’s way of uniting with us in a very special and solemn way. The Eucharist is intended solely for the spiritual nourishment of the soul and not of the body.
April 17, 2011
Q. Is it appropriate not to wear your wedding ring if you’re married? I see so many men and women no longer wearing one but am unsure if this is wrong. –Anonymous
A. Personally, I like the idea of couples wearing their wedding rings just as I prefer to see priests wear their identifying symbol of the Roman collar. However, couples are not required to wear their wedding bands at all. While it is a good practice and a wonderful traditional sign of the couple’s love and fidelity, the use of wedding rings is actually quite new. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that American jewelers started promoting the use of the double exchange of rings for wedding couples. It might surprise one to find out that World War II was actually responsible for popularizing the use of wedding bands for men. Young soldiers who married their high school sweethearts before going to war (and there were lots of them) started the trend of proudly wearing their wedding band as a sign of their faithfulness to their married loved one. The other non-servicemen wives thought it was a great idea and encouraged their husbands to do the same. But others do not wear theirs because it was hazardous for the kind of manual labor they do (they could lose their finger if they wear any kind of ring!). Speaking of weddings, the big wedding for the future king in England, Prince William, will take place later this month. And guess what, it is a tradition for the King of England not to wear a wedding band and Prince William said that he would comply with the tradition!
Q. How can you tell if the rosaries are blessed or not? –Tabitha R.
A. No one can really tell so if you’re in doubt just bring them to the priest for a blessing. And don’t worry, blessings are always free of charge.
Q. What happens to your soul if you commit suicide? Do you go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. God’s 5th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, includes killing one’s self. While it is a serious sin to commit suicide it is only God who makes the judgment as to who goes to heaven or hell. God reads the heart of the person and would know that many who commit suicide are in a state of deep distress and are not aware or give full consent to their act. God’s love and mercy is bountiful and we always hope that they are now in the presence of God. As an act of charity we should always pray for the soul of the deceased regardless of how they passed on to eternal life.
Q. Are Catholics discouraged from reading the Bible for fear of “misinterpreting” it?” –Anonymous
A. It is a myth that has been going around for centuries that Catholics are discouraged from reading the Bible. Have you heard your parents or grandparents or any of the priests ever tell you not to read the Bible? All my life I have never heard this uttered once. On the contrary, I’ve followed the Church’s advice to read the scriptures regularly and I’ve been reading it practically daily since I was 14 years old. A famous doctor of the faith and Catholic bishop, St. Jerome, remarked way back in the 4th century, “ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ!” Here’s a little trivia for you. Do you know what book Johannes Gutenberg of Germany, the inventor of the modern printing press, printed off his press? A Catholic Bible (The Gutenberg Bible, c. 1455).
April 24, 2011
Q. Does a sin in a dream count as a sin in real life? –Juliana Terreri, age 8
A. No. Dreams are irrational thoughts that we have no control of while we are ‘unconscious’ and therefore we are not actively taking part in them.
Q. Do you have to believe in God in order to believe in hell? –Anonymous
A. Yes. The existence of hell would not make really sense if there is no existence of God and heaven in the next life. If there is no God then there is no point of believing either in heaven or hell. If we believe that the bad angels and the bad people are in hell, then there must be another place where the good angels and the good people will live forever. And they will be living with a all-good perfect being whom we call God.
Q. I believe in our God but there are so many other faiths. How do we know that ours is true? –Meghan H., 12-years old
A. Very good question, Meghan, and there is no perfect time of the year to answer this than today because it’s Easter Sunday! There are many religions in the world that have been founded by humans. Jesus was the only one whose coming was preannounced for several years by several prophets that he would be coming to give us the true message of salvation. Every other founder just showed up and started preaching their message. Jesus showed proof of his authenticity by performing many stunning miracles including healing the sick, driving out demons from the possessed, multiplying loaves and fish to feed thousands, and even raising people back from the dead! No other person in the world comes close to the miracles of Jesus that shows he has divine power. Jesus also says that he existed prior to being born through Mary and spoke of God as his Heavenly Father. But most importantly, Jesus showed his greatest love for everyone by dying on the cross. His ultimate sacrifice of his life to reopen the gates of heaven for us to enter is unmatched by anyone. And to this date Jesus remains the only founder of a religion who died and came back to life again!—more proof that we should believe in Jesus. Our Good Lord promised that we if live the faith that he taught to his apostles and, according to John 6:53-54, receive the Holy Eucharist, we will be guaranteed to have our own resurrection: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”. Oh, by the way, you’ll be happy to know that the Catholic Church we belong to is the original Christian church that Jesus founded upon the apostle, Peter, our first pope: “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld (hell) shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). With all the thousands of religions in the world, aren’t you glad that you already belong to the one holy catholic and apostolic church?
May 1, 2011
Q. Is there a minimum age limit before you could become pope? It seems like our popes have always been senior citizens age. Why not someone younger? –Anonymous
A. There is no age minimum to become a pope. Since the middle ages the election of a new pope is chosen from among the cardinals and most of them do not reach that level until they are usually in their 50’s. Pope John Paul II was the 2nd youngest to be elected pope at 58 years old in 1978 and had the 2nd longest reign as pontiff (26 years). The youngest to be elected was Pius IX who was 54 in 1846 and holds the record for the longest service as pope (31 years).
Q. Can we walk through our guardian angels? –Meaghan Schichl, age 5
A. Since angels are pure spirits and don’t have bodies, and they follow us wherever we go, I guess we can walk right through them. I have yet to ‘excuse’ myself for accidentally bumping into my Guardian Angel. But if God allows them to have a ‘temporary’ body, we can actually feel them such as what happened to Jacob. While they were wrestling the angel dislocated Jacob’s hip from its socket [don’t mess with God’s angels!]. You can read about this amazing Biblical account on Genesis 32:23-33.
Q. If you have to break the communion host in 8 pieces, does it still count that you received communion? –Anonymous
A. Yes. Jesus is present in every visible particle of the consecrated communion host in his entirety.
Q. How does the bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Christ? –Anonymous
A. It happens during Mass at the consecration part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Once the priest says the prayers, “This is my body” and “This is the cup of my blood”, the bread and wine at those points have changed in substance into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Q. If someone of another faith is attending our Mass, may they receive the Eucharist? –Anonymous
A. No. Even baptized Catholics cannot just receive the Eucharist at our Mass. They have to take classes and understand our faith and our belief in the Eucharist before they are allowed to receive communion. Catholics are also required to make their First Penance (confession) before their First Communion. Acceptance of all Catholic doctrine as taught by the pope is a precondition for communion. Since people of other faith do not meet any of these requirements they cannot partake in our Eucharist but they are most welcome to worship with us during Mass as many of them do. Holy Communion for Catholics is a sign of our oneness in faith that unfortunately is not shared at this time with others who profess a different belief. One also needs to be a regular Mass attendee in order to receive communion. Even Catholics who miss even just one Mass without a good reason may not receive Holy Communion until after he or she has gone to confession. If you want to read more details about this you can go back and read my November 15, 2009 Shepherd’s Notes column found in our parish website.
May 8, 2011
Q. After reading your column, my non-Catholic daughter-in-law asked where in the Bible is there a reference to purgatory. Where is that belief based on? –Anonymous
A. The Catholic Church has always taught purgatory because it is part of Sacred Tradition. The ancient Christian church writings have many references for praying for the dead. Non-Catholics need to understand that the Catholic (Christian) doctrine has existed long before the Bible. The Church with its complete doctrine was already in place before the first line in the New Testament was even written. Jesus never asked the apostles to write anything down but he told them to preach the Gospel to everyone. Much of our faith was passed on by word of mouth. This explains why the Church believes and uses the terms such as the Trinity, sacraments and purgatory even though they are not specifically found in the Bible. The Church places Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture as two equally important sources of our faith. Remember, it was the Church that gave us the Bible and not the other way around. St. John writes, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). But if you want to read a scriptural verse referencing praying to help the deceased persons, look up 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 that gave the account of the Jewish hero Judas Maccabeus praying and making “atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin”. You will need a Catholic Bible for this because Martin Luther in the 16th century excluded 7 Old Testament books in the Protestant Bible including the Book of Maccabees 1 & 2. A Catholic Bible has 73 books while the Protestant Bible has 66.
Q. If you died coming out of confession, would you go straight to heaven? –Anonymous
A. It’s possible but not necessarily. Jesus may judge that the person stills needs to atone for sins in purgatory. But for anyone who died just after making a good confession, that person will very unlikely end up in hell.
Q. What are the ashes used on Ash Wednesday made of? –A. W.
A. They are usually made of burned old palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.
Q. What is the proper way to dispose of an overabundance of religious articles such as prayer cards, devotionals, rosaries, medals and even old Bibles? –Anonymous
A. The proper way to dispose them is either by burning or burying them. What you cannot burn, such as the medals, can be buried in your yard or some other place.
Q. Do you drink in heaven? --Kayleigh Grady, age 8
A. In heaven we will never get thirsty so there is no need to drink in heaven. Jesus promised to give us a perfect glorified body at the resurrection. This kind of a body will be immortal (one that will live forever) and therefore would no longer need food and water to live.
Q. If Pilate saved Jesus, would he be a saint? –Andrew Donofrio
A. Yes, he would. Everyone else who stood up for Jesus is now a saint in heaven.
May 15, 2011
Q. Is it unethical or against Catholic doctrine to use stillborn body parts to replace our own body parts? How about using stem cells to replace our own body parts? –SBC
A. Good timing with the question. I attended a 2-day conference on Catholic bioethics last week and was able to ask an expert on this subject for you. Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D., president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that stillborn body parts may be used as long as the parent(s) gave consent. It is even ethical to donate the stillborn bodies to science if it is intended for the right medical studies. The use of stem cells has not been problematic in the church’s teachings. It is the use of the embryonic stem cells that is prohibited because it involves using living human beings. The church has always taught that life begins at the moment of conception. But body parts from aborted babies may never be used for any body parts replacement or experimentation.
Q. How many priests are there in the church? –Anonymous
A. There are about 400,000 priests serving a little over a billion Catholics in the world.
Q. Was Jesus a martyr? –Andrew Donofrio
A. Oh, yes! Jesus suffered and died to save us from our sins and that makes him the King of Martyrs.
Q. Are there games in heaven? –Katie Bashioum
A. Plenty! And they are far more fun than any of the games in the world right now. Since we’ll be able to fly under our own power in heaven and go through walls like Jesus, can you just imagine how endless the kind of games we’ll be able to play?
Q. Does anyone replace the pope if he is ill or injured and unable to perform his duties anymore? –Lauren Marie Ange
A. Popes are in office for life and they stay on until they die. So far the church has been blessed that we haven’t had to resort to a prolonged sickness or injury to the pope. When the pope is really sick, like Blessed John Paul II during his last few days of his life, the church continues to function. During that time there were no major church decisions made because only the pope can authorize that. About a couple of weeks after the death of the pope an election is held and a new head of the church picks up where the last pope left off.
Q. What were the names of the three wise men? –Sucie Jones
A. They were Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.
Q. If you committed a mortal sin and you were on your way to confession, and you died, would you still go to hell? –Anonymous
A. Hell? No. Since one already was sorry for one’s serious sin(s) there was already contrition (sorrow) for one’s sin(s) and intent to be truly reconciled with God. The mercy of God would likely treat that as a good act of contrition.
May 22, 2011
Q. What do the “A XP Ω” symbols mean? –Megan Jenkins
A. Those are the Greek letters Jesus used about himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelations 22:13). Alpha (A) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega (Ω) is the last. The XP stands for the first two letters for Christ in Greek. It was used as an ancient symbol to identify Jesus Christ.
Q. Is it proper to talk with other parishioners before Mass in church? –Anonymous
A. Only if you have to and it must be done very softly to the point that only the two conversing should be able to hear each other! Some do not realize that talking loudly in church is inappropriate and bothers a lot of people who are trying to pray and meditate before Mass. We’ve received a number of complaints about this for quite some time now and we are looking into the suggestion of having signs at the entrance of the church to observe reverent silence as found in some churches.
Q. Why is the word ‘God’ in capital letters? –Anonymous
A. When it is used as a proper noun (like a name of a person, e.g., Jesus) it is appropriate to capitalize it. As believers of the one true God, we always capitalize it as a sign of respect for Almighty God, our creator.
Q. Are there babies in heaven? –Anna Grady, age 6
A. All the babies who die go back to God in heaven. But when they get there they grow up really fast…and I mean REALLY fast! (See April 18, 2010 Ask the Priest for details.)
Q. When reading my Bible the other day, I came across Numbers 19:11 which states, “He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.” Does God exempt those of us that are in the emergency services (police, firefighters, etc.) since this is part of our job? –Anonymous
A. God gave that particular law to the Jews to keep them from catching diseases. It would have been too complex for the Jews to get a lesson on bacterial and viral contamination so it was much easier to just tell them, “Thou shalt not do this.” This was also true for the prohibition of eating pork and crustaceans. We are no longer forbidden to touch dead bodies since we now know how to handle them in a sanitary way. Feel free to carry out your duties handling the deceased in your profession without the need to go through an Old Testament purification ritual. A good hand soap and/or an anti-bacterial solution is probably all you need for a general hand purification.
Q. How do you deal with a very negative and difficult person especially if it is a relative? –Anonymous
A. You’ll need a lot of patience and say a lot of prayers for that person! One lesson I learned in life is that people who are set in their ways very rarely ever change their unpleasant and inappropriate behavior. It is only by the grace of God that a few of them have a change of heart before they die. Our best attitude as a Christian is to pray for them, avoid their confrontational behavior and just hope for the best. You may need to “turn your other cheek” a lot if you can’t avoid being around this person.
May 29, 2011
Q. How old do you have to be in order to become a priest? –Anonymous
A. Canon Law 1031 says that a candidate to the priesthood must have completed his 25th year before he can be ordained in the priesthood.
Q. If you were to go to a sleep away camp that wasn’t Christian for more than a week long, would it be a sin if you couldn’t go to Mass because it wasn’t offered? –Anonymous
A. No, it’s not a sin because going to Mass was not possible at that time and God does not demand the impossible from us. If you’re anticipating going away on a trip where you know you would miss Sunday Mass, you could ask your pastor to give you permission to be excused for Mass for that Sunday. It’s only when we deliberately skip an opportunity to go to a Catholic Mass or go to a non-Catholic service in place of the Mass that was readily available that we commit a serious sin.
Q. At the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday night before the Easter vigil, the priests laid face down on the floor in front of the altar. Why? –Moira Bauer
A. That is prayer posture called prostration. To prostrate or lie face down in prayer is an ancient prayer posture to signify humbling one’s self before God. Since we meditate on the Passion and death of Jesus on Good Friday we humble ourselves in prayer by prostrating before God to acknowledge our sinfulness and the need of God’s grace for forgiveness and to do good.
Q. What should we do with the palms after Palm Sunday? I’ve heard they should be burned or buried, but why? –Anonymous
A. It is not proper to just throw blessed sacred items with the regular garbage and that’s why it is more appropriate to either burn or bury them.
Q. Is Mother’s Day a biblical holiday? –Joshua
A. No, but it is a very nice celebration to honor our mother including our Blessed Mother!
June 5, 2011
Q. What would have happened if only Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree and Adam didn’t? –Peter Karanski
A. Scripture indicates that sin entered into the world through the sin of Adam: “As through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all” (Romans 5:12). If Adam had refused to eat the forbidden fruit that Eve offered him, original sin would not have been passed down through the generations (at least not through Adam). The full Biblical account of the fall is found in Genesis 3.
Q. If Haiti and Japan need help, then why doesn’t God just take care of it? –Anonymous
A. He does. God has sent lots of people already to those places to help those who are suffering. God has also inspired a lot of people, including those in our parish, to be generous in sending money, food and medical supplies to them. The work of God is done through the hands of the people.
Q. Are there houses in heaven? –Kayleigh Grady
A. Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:2-3). From the words of Our Lord it appears that there are many houses in heaven. I really like the older Bible translation that reads, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” We expect that in heaven what God has prepared for his good people are mansion looking dwelling places and not run-down shacks.
Q. In the May 22 reading it says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Does this mean that the Jews have no place in heaven? –Anonymous
A. Not at all. What this means is salvation and the complete knowledge of the truth can only come from Jesus and no one else. Our Lord came with the intention of saving and redeeming everyone from sin. Regardless of what faith one belongs to the means of salvation still comes from Jesus alone. Those who do not follow Jesus and the Catholic Church, but are sincere in following another faith, are still saved by Jesus Christ through the merits of the Church.
Q. If there’s an animal on the road and you don’t stop, and you ended up killing the animal, is that an intentional sin? –Anonymous
A. While it is not a sin to kill an animal the road, most of the time it is a good idea to avoid hitting the animal, for example, a moose. It will more likely kill you if you hit it than you killing it! But in certain cases it is actually more dangerous to try and swerve around an animal than just hitting it if you’re traveling at a fast speed. It is only a sin if you seek to purposely harm an animal by intentionally trying to hit it for the fun of it. Mistreatment and/or abuse of animals are signs of a bigger human problem that often leads to the mistreatment and abuse of other people.
June 12, 2011
Q. I am getting ready to put my house up for sale and read an article that the seller should put away all religious figurines and signs in case an atheist is looking at your house. What is your opinion on this? –Anonymous
A. Atheists generally don’t make adjustments to accommodate those who believe in God and neither should we try to accommodate them. The Bible says, “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt; not one does what is right” (Psalm 14:1). Militant atheists even tend to be belligerent against those who believe in God and will not stop short even of taking others to court. I would not take the suggestion from that article at all. Those who are looking to buy a house are interested only in buying the house and not the items that belong to the current owner because those items will not be there anyway when they move in. But there is something compelling that scripture reminds us about concealing our faith in Jesus: “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Q. If you are 12 years old and haven’t had First Communion yet, is it too late to get First Communion? –Anonymous
A. Not at all! I once gave communion to a man who made his First Communion at 76 years old. We have a special sacraments class for those who need First Communion but are beyond the 2nd Grade class. Tell that person to contact our Religious Education office (540-338-6381) and we’ll gladly enroll him or her to our class.
Q. What is the role of the Deacon in the church? –Anonymous
A. There are two kinds of deacons: transitional and permanent. Transitional deacons are those who are preparing to become ordained priests. Permanent deacons will always be deacons and their primary role is to assist the pastor and proclaim the Gospel at liturgy. The word deacon is Greek for helper. Since deacons receive the sacrament of Holy Orders they are ordained ministers who are ordinary ministers of the Eucharist, can baptize and witness marriages. There are many other ways deacons can serve in the church and there are too many to list. Basically they could do just about anything except celebrate Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick, confirm, and ordain new priests and deacons.
Q. Do you ever take off the black clothing underneath your vestments? –Julianna Terreri, age 9
A. Usually only when I go to bed (and I do have black pajamas but I have other colors as well). Pope John Paul II has written in the past that priests should wear their clerical uniform because the people have the right to know in public that we are priests. In public there were times when someone who needed to talk to a priest and would not have had that opportunity had I been wearing one of my favorite Scooby Doo t-shirts. The rare times I’ve been seen wearing secular clothes was when I was exercising, playing sports, riding roller coasters at amusement parks, at workcamp or on vacation far away from the parish. I even have a priest’s swimsuit with a built-in Roman collar! If you’re on Facebook with me then you know what it looks like! (Under Maddy Curtis photos)
June 19, 2011
Q. I am glad that you are looking into ways of reminding parishioners to observe decorum during Mass. Please include in your consideration parishioners who read/send text messages during Mass. I have in more than one occasion sat (with utmost indignation) next to a parishioner who ‘quietly’ read/sent text messages. –Patricia F.
A. You are most certainly right being upset by someone ‘texting’ during Mass. While there is a time for everything we also need to know that there are inappropriate times for doing something at the wrong time. Sending or reading text messages during Mass is undoubtedly a no-brainer no no! The Mass is the most important event taking place in the world. It is the re-presentation of the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. We should give Our Lord and Savior our undivided attention during that time. You just gave me an idea to write about this in one of my upcoming Shepherd’s Notes column. Since we’re covering this now I will wait until everyone is back from vacation after Labor Day.
Q. Why do girls (women) wear veils? –Kayleigh
A. Since ancient times women (and girls) wearing veils in church was a sign of modesty and respect. This practice is still widely used in many faiths outside of the Catholic Church although many Catholic women in various cultures still wear the veils in church. Before the Code of Canon Law was revised in 1983, the church required women to wear veils in church. This practice was explained by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:4-6: “Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophecies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is as if she had had her heard shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or head shaved, then she should wear a veil.” Since the new code does not address that women must wear veils in church, it is presumed that it is no longer in the church.
Q. Is it wrong for guys to cross dress? –Anonymous
A. God says don’t do it! “A woman shall not wear an article proper to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s dress; for anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord, your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5). Dudes, unless you’re buying a dress as a gift to a woman, it would be wise to shop your own clothes only in the men’s apparel section.
Q. Does heaven ever get full? –Ally, 5th grader
A. Never. There’s plenty of room in heaven for all the angels and the saints. Even if everyone in hell were in heaven there would still be room. However, from Jesus’ description of heaven, it does appear to be full…of happiness and love!
Q. Where will the new parish center be? –Cole Elam
A. It will be located between the current parish office and the pavilion. The current pavilion is in real bad shape and will be torn down to make room for the new parish center. But we are building a brand new pavilion next to the new center.
June 26, 2011
No Ask the Priest column
July 3, 2011
Q. I’ve noticed that when Jesus healed people in the Gospels he often told them not to tell anyone. Why is that? —Hannah O’Neill, age 9
A. Jesus told those he healed not to spread the news because a large crowd would gather around him and prevent him from entering preaching the Gospel to the next town. This is oftentimes referred to as the Messianic secret. The primary mission of Jesus was not to perform miracles, heal the sick or feed the poor. Jesus’ most important mission was to teach us the true faith, the right way of living and to bring salvation to the world through his suffering and death. He did not want the people to lose focus on the important path that leads to eternal life with God in heaven.
Q. I have always struggled why it seemed to take so long for Mary’s Assumption to be with Christ after his Ascension. I believe tradition says that it was around 20 years. Why didn’t Jesus take his mother with him when he ascended to heaven? –“Curious catechist”
A. Tradition indicates that Mary lived on earth until she was in her early 70’s and lived under the care of John the Apostle. Their house is well preserved in Ephesus, Turkey (thru God’s goodness I was able to visit and celebrate Mass there back in March 2009!). If you’re wondering why Mary has such a prominent status in the Catholic Church aside from being chosen to become the Mother of God, it is because theological opinions and tradition seem to indicate that the reason why Mary was allowed to stay on earth for several years was to help guide the Church in her early years.
Q. This past week I saw on the news how the state of New York approved the “immoral” act of allowing same sex marriages. The Bible is clear in stating a man marries a woman and a woman marries a man. How could lawmakers allow such legislation to pass knowing it is totally contradictory to the Word of God? –Anonymous
How does the Catholic Church view homosexuality? --Anonymous
A. It is a sad reality that many lawmakers today have become overly secularized and no longer respect how the true author of marriage (God) defines marriage. The Catholic bishops in New York did what they could to prevent the law from passing but the close state senate vote and the governor signing the bill allowed it to become law. Jesus defines clearly what marriage is: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Matthew 19:4-5)? Any other configuration of a marriage other than what God describes is purely of human authorship and nothing more. It does not have a place in the sacrament of matrimony. Support for a same sex relationship is found nowhere in the Bible or in any Judeo-Christian Tradition. Scripture and Tradition actually forbids the practice (Genesis 19:1-29, Romans 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:10, 1 Tim. 1:10). That is the core reason why the Catholic Church can never support it. The Church can only teach what God has revealed. I strongly recommend that Catholics read the official teaching on homosexuality found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2357-2359. In summary, the Church teaches that individuals who have homosexual tendencies are not to be rejected but are called to a life of chastity and holiness like everyone else. The Church rejects the practice of homosexuality but not the person: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358). [Caution: The last 2 sentences simply mean we must not forget that every person is made in the image and likeness of God regardless if they are homosexuals or not and should not be ridiculed in any way. But they do not imply that we may not work hard to preserve God’s definition that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.] We should not be surprised if we get persecuted for defending the true meaning of marriage. Do you remember how the great St. John the Baptist died? He was beheaded for defending the sanctity of marriage (see Matthew 14:3-12).
July 10, 2011
Q. Why does God allow us to be tempted? –Joshua
A. It may be hard to believe but God allows us to be tempted to make us better people. When we look at athletes we ask why do they continue to work out hard and eat healthy foods that they may not necessarily like in order to perform better. Many of them confess that they are tempted to cheat but they are even more determined not to because they know the value of being able to do better in their sport. Overcoming the temptation only makes them better in their resiliency to do what is necessary to stay healthy. The same goes for hard working students. They are at times tempted to slack off but decide not to because overcoming their temptations only makes their grades better. Their good study habits made their temptations easier to overcome. The same holds true with evil temptations. The more we turn away from them the better we become spiritually disciplined and less likely to fall into serious sin in the future. It is also our way of showing God that we are willing to make sacrifices out of love and loyalty to him. Temptations remind us not to be prideful because without God we struggle a lot. Temptations make us turn to God in prayer. It is also important to remember that temptations themselves are not sinful. It is only when we give in to temptations willfully that our actions become sinful. In reality, temptations are very beneficial to us. Each time we turn away from a temptation, God blesses and makes us more holy. The holiest people in the world are those who have turned away from most of their temptations. On the other hand, the most sinful are those who have given in the most to their temptations.
Q. What should we say to young people who are afraid for various reasons (e.g., job insecurity, financial issues, etc.) to bring children into the world? Some say the world isn’t safe for an innocent child. –Anonymous
A. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (hell). Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31). As long as we have our faith we should not fear to live in the world that God created. Since the fall of Adam and Eve the world has not been “safe”. But that does not mean that we should not accept God’s invitation for us to live in the world made in his own sacred image. The only way for anyone to populate heaven is to first be a part of the world population.
Q. Can you truly be sorry for your sins in hell and still go to purgatory and then to heaven? –Seth McRoberts
A. No. Those who are in hell are there because they have rejected God here on earth and will never be sorry for their sins for all eternity.
Q. There are seven archangels and I know three of them by name: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Who are the other four? –Jake Dunk
A. In Tobit 12:15 the archangel reveals himself, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” Aside from Michael and Gabriel, the other four archangels Raphael mentioned are not revealed by name in the Bible.
July 17, 2011
Q. If Jesus was crucified, how did he finish writing the Bible? –Maddie, 8 years old
A. Jesus did not physically write any part of the Bible. Several other people wrote the 73 biblical books (46 Old Testament, 27 New Testament). God inspired the authors to write what he wanted written. The only time we have a record of Jesus doing any kind of writing was when he wrote in the sand (John 8:3-11). The New Testament books were written a few years after Jesus had already died, resurrected and ascended into heaven.
Q. If you are traveling and cannot get to church, is it a mortal sin to miss Sunday Mass? –Anonymous
A. It is not a sin at all. God is fair and just. He does not expect us to do the impossible (that’s his role!). We still should somehow make Sunday holy in some way by saying extra prayers and I recommend doing a brief scriptural reading if possible if we can’t make it to church on Sunday. One of the perks of being a priest is when I travel I have a Mass kit and can celebrate Mass anywhere. Therefore, I have no excuse to miss Mass!
Q. If a person attends a funeral at an Episcopalian church and communion is offered, can a Catholic partake of the communion? –Anonymous
A. No. We do not practice inter-communion with other faiths. We respect other people’s faith but our belief and understanding of Holy Communion is far different from theirs. For example, receiving communion for us means we accept and believe wholeheartedly the faith professed by the particular church administering the communion. By receiving from other churches would mean a denial of our own Catholic doctrine. A similar question was asked about this on the February 27, 2011 Ask the Priest column. You may also want to read the response given there.
Q. Why do we kneel in church? --Ally W., 6th grade
A. It is a sign of our deepest respect for Jesus as true God and true man. When we kneel down during Mass it is because we acknowledge that the real presence of Jesus is right before us. Tradition and Scripture tells us that this is the most appropriate gesture to be in the presence of God: “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Q. What has happened to the “Nihil Obstat” and “Imprimatur” as they relate to the readings and the Bible? –Anonymous
A. Those terms are still used and applied in many Catholic books and the Bible. Nihil Obstat (“nothing hinders or stands in the way”) is a Latin term used by the official Catholic reviewer to affirm that there is nothing in the writing contrary to faith and morals. The reviewer does not necessarily agree with the content. An “Imprimatur” (“let it be printed”) is granted when the bishop of the author (or the bishop where the periodical/book is published) concurs that the publication does not contain errors in matters of faith and morals. Catholic Bibles do have the bishop’s imprimatur on it. Years ago all Catholic books must at least have a Nihil Obstat before they could be published but this is no longer absolutely required by the church.
July 24, 2011
Q. I’ve noticed that the saints’ halo is different from Jesus’ halo. If so, why? –Joe Viellenave
A. That’s just for artistic purpose to show the difference between God’s holiness and the saints’ holiness.
Q. Why does the pope live in Rome? –Beth Hogan
A. St. Peter, the first pope, moved and established his apostolic mission from the Holy Land to Rome a few years after Jesus ascended into heaven. During St. Peter’s time Rome was considered the capital of the world and was believed by the apostles to be the best city to spread the Gospel and Christianity to as many people in the world. St. Peter was martyred and buried at the place where the great St. Peter’s Basilica now stands. Since the first pope lived, governed and died in Rome, it has become the true home of the succeeding popes. A small section of Rome belongs to the Catholic Church and is better known as the Vatican where the pope actually lives.
Q. Why do we hold hands when praying the ‘Our Father’? –William
A. The official Mass directives (General Instructions on the Roman Missal) have never specified to hold hands during The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father). While it is not forbidden for those familiar with each other to hold hands during this time it is actually more liturgically appropriately not to. So before you grab someone’s hand during the Our Father, make sure that person is in favor of the practice.
Q. Could you tell me the best way to make a good confession where I don’t feel like I have just confessed someone else’s sins along with mine? –Anonymous
A. You make a very good point. Going to confession is about confessing our sins and not the others. The best way to do this is, of course, to first make a good examination of conscience to find out how we fare with God based on what failures we may have done. Once we have identified our sins we should then approach the priest to confess our sins without giving any unnecessary details. This will prevent us from talking about other people’s faults and concentrate on accusing ourselves before our all loving and merciful God. Dragging the sins of others in the confessional is oftentimes an attempt on someone’s part to rationalize or excuse one’s sins. A good confession is one that is simple, honest, sincere, complete and contrite.
Q. Did Jesus ever cough, sneeze or clear his throat? –Cosette Jones
A. Ah-hem...I actually couldn’t find the answer to this one! But if I were just to give my personal opinion, Jesus probably did. He was a true human just like us and he traveled in the same dusty roads that the others did. It would seem that he probably did have to cough, sneeze or clear his throat from the dust that everyone else received.
July 31, 2011
Q. Is there Mass in heaven? –Anonymous
A. Actually, those in heaven attend Mass here on earth! God is present at every single celebration of the Mass but also the angels and the saints. The Mass is sometimes described as the closest thing next to heaven and often referred to as a foretaste of heaven. But in heaven itself there is no need to have a Mass celebration. The sacraments give us signs of the hidden mysteries of God. In heaven nothing is hidden and the sacraments would no longer be needed to sanctify us. God would sanctify us directly. So at the end of time (aka the end of the world) the celebration of Mass would cease.
Q. Why do some people do not want to be Catholic? –Lucas Roach
A. We have a lot of people in our church who were not Catholics at some point in their lives and joined the Catholic Church later. They will tell you that the reason why they weren’t Catholics before was because they did not know or understand what the Catholic Church was about. Once they studied it and went to the RCIA class, they discovered what a great treasure the Catholic faith really is and wished many more people in the world would discover it!
Q. Would you go to hell if you never receive Holy Communion (Eucharist)? –Jim
A. Only if you believe and understand that the Eucharist is something Jesus requires us to receive for our salvation but refuse to do it out of laziness or pride. Jesus makes it very clear in John 6:53-54, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” But non-Catholics who do not understand the teaching on the Eucharist would not lose their soul if they never received Holy Communion because they never believed in it in the first place.
Q. How do we know if God (Jesus) is talking to us directly? –Paul R.
A. Most of the time we do not. However, the better we become with praying to God, the better we can sense when God is talking to us directly. One of the signs that God is speaking to us silently in our hearts is that we are at peace enjoying the moment contemplating the good thoughts coming to our minds. And if we are not sure and would really like to know, we could always talk to a priest or spiritual director about it.
Q. Was God happy with the Crusades? –SBC
A. God was happy with the great things the good crusaders but would definitely condemn the evil deeds that some of the bad crusaders did (especially during the 4th Crusade 1202-04). There are some who would like to condemn the entire work of the crusaders and this actually does a grave injustice to those who were good and holy men who truly did their Christian duty to preserve the sacred sites in what we now refer to as the Holy Land. St. Francis of Assisi was actually one of the key figures who led the 5th Crusade. Read about his incredible heroism when he met with the Sultan. There is a good historical book titled, “Who Were The Crusades”, written by Jonathan Riley-Smith from the University of Cambridge that might interest you. I also found a nice summary of the Crusades on the web: www.jesuschristsavior.net/Crusades.html.
August 7, 2011
Q. What is the proper burial for a Catholic, cremation or underground burial? –Anonymous
A. Since the new code of Canon Law came into effect in 1983, the Catholic Church now permits cremation for deceased Catholics. However, the church still prefers the traditional burial on the ground even though it now permits cremation. Canon 1176, par. 3 states, “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” If the cremation option is chosen, the Church also requires that the cremains be placed in an urn and be buried underground or placed in a columbarium. The Church does not permit the scattering of the cremains.
Q. Is there a way to solve the mystery of the Holy Trinity? –Daniel
A. The only way to better understand the vast mystery of the Holy Trinity is for one to see God face to face in heaven. We can only learn so much about it because the capacity of the human mind is very limited and incapable of understanding the greatness of God. Even in heaven we will spend eternity learning more about the beauty of God and the Holy Trinity because only God himself completely understands the fullness of his divinity. That’s one of the reasons why heaven will never ever be boring.
Q. How were the angels made? –Ellie Creighton
A. God created the angels completely out of nothing. They are pure spirits and do not have bodies. But they are real beings. The Bible identifies 9 different types (choirs) of angels: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions (aka Dominations), Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Guardian Angels. God made the angels before the humans and the completion of the world. In Job 38:1-7 it speaks about the presence of the angels (sons of God) shouting with joy as the world was being created. When we read about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden the presence of the fallen angel was already seen doing his tempting.
Q. Should we love the devil? –Brady, age 10
A. Strange as it may sound, the simple answer is, “yes!” But it’s not the kind of love that we’re normally used to. There are only two ways we can treat God’s creatures (angels and humans). We either love them or hate them. Jesus does not want us to hate anybody. As a matter of fact, Jesus asks us to love even our enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:43-45). It is hard for us to understand that God still loves satan, the fallen angels and the lost souls in hell even though they have become his (and our) enemies. God is perfect love (1 John 4:8) and can never hate anyone. If God still loves them, should we love them or hate them? There is that theme that Jesus wants as Christians to follow: “Hate sin but love the sinner.”
August 14, 2011
Q. Once you get to heaven, is it hard to get through the gate? –Anonymous
A. For anyone who dies in the state of grace, it will be very easy to enter God’s kingdom in heaven. But for those who died in a state of serious (mortal sin) without the benefit of receiving God’s forgiveness, it would be impossible to enter the gates of heaven.
Q. Which is harder to follow, the 10 Commandments or the arrows on the church parking lot? –Anonymous
A. After seeing a number of cars still going the opposite direction of the arrows on the church lot, I think you have a very good question and analogy! Even though a number of bulletin and Mass announcements have been made asking everyone to observe the arrows for the safety of the churchgoers there are still drivers who choose to go on the ‘road to perdition’. Sadly, there have been a few close calls that could have led to an accident. Perhaps this is a lesson we can apply in observing the 10 Commandments. God has repeatedly told us for years to follow his commandments but we still at times choose to travel on the dangerous wrong side of the road through our own fault. In my imaginative mind I sometimes picture God sternly asking us the question, “Which part of the ‘Thou shalt not’ do you not understand?” So for those who drive on the wrong side of the parking lot and reading this, please kindly observe this new commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adult tyranny by bearing false turns against thy neighbor!”
Q. Do you have a pet fish? –Maeve
A. Actually, we do! Our Lady’s grotto and mini pond to the left of the rectory has a couple of goldfish in there that somehow continue to survive despite the extreme temperatures we’ve had since I’ve been in the parish. The fish were already there when I arrived here 2-1/2 years ago. God’s divine providence must be feeding and keeping them alive all this time.
Q. If a person has Alzheimer and has sinned, does God forgive him even though he cannot go to confession anymore? –Anonymous
A. There is a chance that those whose faculties of the mind have weakened can still be forgiven. We can only hope that those who have sinned in the past, but before they slipped into Alzheimer, had a change of heart to ask for God’s forgiveness. God’s merciful and loving heart is always the final judge of the living and the dead. For Catholics, receiving the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick assures forgiveness of sins for those who are no longer able to go to confession. This sacrament is connected to the sacrament of Penance and has the dual purpose of healing primarily the wounds of the soul due to sin but also the possibility of being cured from physical sickness.
August 21, 2011
Q. In the Bible Jesus often says things about the wealthy not getting into heaven. What if you were wealthy and a very dedicated Catholic? –Anonymous
A. Jesus never condemned anyone for being rich. The theme of Jesus addressing the wealthy was if anyone relied only on their riches, and not God, it would be difficult for them to enter heaven: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). There were a lot of holy and rich people in the Bible including Joseph of Arimathea who took great care of asking for and burying the body of Jesus in a tomb that belonged to him (Matthew 27:57-60). We also have many kings and queens who are canonized saints. It is not the riches that is evil but how the person uses the riches that determine whether his or her actions are good. St. Paul makes this very clear in his letter, “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Those who are blessed with wealth are called by God to be stewards of his goods for the good of others. It is also very important to know that being poor does not automatically make one holy and on the path to heaven. There are a lot of people who are considered poor but are not living holy lives. Some have even resorted to crime. What Jesus meant by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3), was that every person should have a humble spirit. God calls everyone to a life of holiness, both the rich and the poor alike.
Q. Does God understand and not punish those who have to make a critical call of ending a loved one’s life by means of taking someone off a ventilator or by allowing a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order to be posted for a critically ill person? I ask because I was in the ER with a friend the other week when his wife was rushed in due to her terminal illness. When the doctor asked if he had a DNR order for his wife, he replied, “No, I can’t do that, I’m Catholic. Please keep her alive.” –Anonymous
A. I highly recommend that you read the Advance Medical Directives (AMD) that we have readily available in the narthex and parish office in order to get the full guidance on this important issue from the Catholic Church. The short answer is that we do not have an obligation to be kept alive by extraordinary means such as ventilators and other machines. There is no sin involved either with requesting to be kept on or removed from such machines. The key word is extraordinary. No one is bound to be kept alive by extraordinary means if there is no reasonable chance of recovery. The little blue AMD pamphlet gives a better understanding regarding DNR and artificial use of machines.
Q. Did Jesus have a job as an adult? –Andrew Donofrio
A. Yes, he likely worked as a carpenter with his father, St. Joseph before going into public ministry during the last 3 years of his life on earth. It was customary for every father in the Middle Eastern culture (and in most cultures) to train their son in the trade that they practiced. The Bible describes St. Joseph as a carpenter (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3). The Greek word used “tekton” which could mean a wood, iron or stone worker. It could also mean a builder. The common English translation used for tekton in the Bible is carpenter.
August 28, 2011
Q. How come before receiving communion we have to fast for an hour but in the Last Supper the disciples were able to take communion only a few minutes after eating? –Harriet, age 12
A. We don’t really know the amount of time that passed between the regular Passover meal and the celebration of the First Eucharist at the Last Supper. What we do know is that fasting before Holy Communion developed over the years in the Church as a sign of respect for the Eucharist as our sacred spiritual food that must be consumed distinctly separate from our regular physical food.
Q. Did cavemen go to church? –Tabitha. Did cavemen pray? --Anonymous
A. There seems to be no “fossil record” of churches back in the prehistoric time of the cavemen so it’s probably safe to presume that they did not go to church [I hope none of the GEICO cavemen would contest this and take offense!]. However, the most ancient and primitive civilizations seem to understand the concept of a supreme being or a god. They left us many signs especially through their ancient paintings portraying a form of worship. Some gave godly respect to the sun, the mountains, trees, animals, etc. This is a sign that the knowledge and worship of God is a natural part of our human nature.
Q. Where did the people who lived before Jesus Christ go after their death since they did not believe in God? –Anonymous
A. There were many good people before Christ who died and actually believed in God. They were in some kind of a place of waiting until Jesus offered himself on the cross for our redemption that the gates of heaven were reopened. But those who refused to believe in God and/or died living sinful lives were sent immediately to their eternal punishments.
Q. Can we as a parish establish the practice of praying the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel at the Sunday Masses? –Anonymous
A. There is an important distinction between liturgy and private devotion. Reciting the St. Michael prayer is a private devotion and can be prayed by the faithful at anytime including before or after Mass. Before the reform of the Mass back in the 1960’s, Pope Leo XIII mandated that certain prayers including the St. Michael prayer should be recited after every “Low Mass” (as opposed to a “High [liturgy] Mass”). Bishop Loverde has expressed to the priests in our diocese that it is not appropriate to incorporate the St. Michael prayer within the liturgy of the New Mass (or even immediately after Mass before the priest has recessed out from the sanctuary) but encourages the people to say it often privately. It is a beautiful and powerful prayer and I personally have been praying it for more than 30 years. But if you attend a Traditional Latin Mass (Low Mass) today you will be saying the St. Michael prayer led by the priest after Mass because that was still the format at the time of the 1962 Missal era.
September 4, 2011
Q. Are there mortal sins in the 10 Commandments? –Anonymous
A. Yes, any of the 10 commandments can be a mortal sin. What determines a mortal (serious or deadly) sin are the 3 following guidelines: 1) serious or grave matter (church defines the sin to be seriously offensive to God), 2) full or sufficient knowledge (person was well aware the act was seriously wrong), and 3) full consent (person acted freely). If all 3 conditions are met then the person has committed a mortal sin. This is the type of sin that would prevent us from going to heaven if we died with this sin without the benefit of a good confession. If any of the 3 conditions is missing, the sin is a venial (lesser) sin. Venial sins are also bad but does not separate us from our friendship with God or forfeit our inheritance of heaven. 1 John 5:16-17 reads, “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” It is also important to know that one who is aware of having committed a mortal sin may not receive Holy Communion until after he or she has gone to confession.
Q. When will you talk about the 3 Days of Darkness? Some say they may be here around December 21, 2012. –Bob Rutzel
A. As far as I know the Catholic Church has never had an official teaching on what you mentioned as “Three Days of Darkness.” Because of that I really don’t have anything I can say about it. There are some who claim that the Mayans have predicted the end of the world will happen in 2012. We know this can’t be right because Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).
Q. Would our parish ever consider having a giant yard sale? I have many things I would donate for it with all the proceeds going to the church. –Anonymous
A. This is probably a good idea to raise money for our soon-to-be built parish center. Once we call for fundraisers for the new building please contact our parish. Yard sales surprisingly can draw a pretty good income! We used to have them to raise money for my old high school parish youth group.
Q. Is it a sin if you yell, “Fight! Fight!” when people are about to do that? Anonymous
A. Yes, it would be. We should never encourage anyone to fight or hurt anyone even if there seems to be a mob encouraging it.
September 11, 2011
Q. What does the car sticker “AM 1160” mean? –Anonymous
A. That stands for the new all-Catholic 24/7 radio station WMET 1160 AM in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. It operates through the Gaudalupe Radio Network based in Midland, TX and began broadcasting in our region on May 3, 2010. You can also check out their station at www.grnonline.com. It is a wonderful Catholic radio station and I highly recommend that you tune in. During the day it operates on 50,000 watts of broadcasting and can easily be heard. At night it downgrades to 1,500 watts so you may have a difficulty hearing the station. If you have access to the internet you can catch their broadcast crystal clear at anytime by logging to the website above and clicking on the Listen Live! link.
Q. Did (Pontius) Pilate go to heaven? –Daniel
A. We don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say anything about what happened to him after death as with most people. We only know of certain saints who were identified by name in heaven. When we pray the Creed at Mass he’s not mentioned positively, “(Jesus) suffered under Pontius Pilate.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t repent before he died. It is interesting to note that Pilate’s wife may have been a believer of Jesus. While Our Lord was on trial, ’Mrs. Pontius Pilate’ sent an urgent message to her husband trying to prevent him from making the biggest trial mistake in history: “While he (Pilate) was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him” (Matthew 27:19). By trying to intervene in an important court case and calling Jesus a “righteous man” seems to indicate that Mrs. Pilate may have been a follower of Jesus.
Q. My husband was born and baptized as a Methodist and a very good person. We have a Catholic marriage of 42 years. We also raised two children as Catholics. If he receives communion, is it a sin on my soul for not stepping in? He loves Jesus so much. –Anonymous
A. Yes, it would be a sin of omission. Catholics are required to inform a non-Catholic that it is a grave offense to our faith for them to receive the Eucharist at Mass. Receiving Holy Communion is something Catholics take very seriously. Aside from believing that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Jesus, Holy Communion is a sign of our unity as believers of our oneness in our Catholic faith in union with the pope. Not even Catholics are allowed to receive the Eucharist until they have been properly instructed and have completed their first confession. A Catholic may no longer appropriately receive communion if he or she no longer accepts the authority of the pope and all the teachings of the Catholic Church. I hope this explains why it is not appropriate for non-Catholics to receive communion and why he have an obligation to ask them to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. It is not to disrespect them for having a different faith. Catholics have a moral obligation to respect people from other faiths. And we’re happy to know that your husband loves Jesus very much! You might want to invite him to our adult Catholic education class (RCIA) if he’s interested in learning more about the Catholic faith which starts on Monday, September 12 @7:30 PM in the Oratory. There is no obligation to become a Catholic for attending the classes.
September 18, 2011
Q. As soon as the tabernacle in the church is opened, I see some people kneel. Is this okay? –SBC
A. Yes. Kneeling is the appropriate gesture when the tabernacle is opened as an acknowledgement to the sacredness and real presence of Jesus in Eucharist.
Q. What was the first thing God made? –Andrew Yevoli
A. If we follow the very first line of the Bible, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1), it appears that God first made heaven. The first creatures God made were the angels. They were created before the animals and humans.
Q. How old was Jesus when he died? –Kelsey Blake, age 8
A. He was 33 years old.
Q. Let’s say a person is gravely ill and near death, and is unable to make a confession due to unconsciousness or heavy medication. Does the person have an obligation to make a sacramental confession if he regains his health (as sometimes happens) after previously receiving a conditional absolution? After recovery, should he abstain from receiving Holy Communion until he makes a sacramental confession? –Anonymous
A. In responding to this I’m presuming that this person you are referring to received his “conditional absolution” through the Anointing of the Sick sacrament and was not active in the sacraments prior to anointing. If that’s the case, yes, you are correct that once the person has recovered and regained consciousness, he has an obligation to make a sacramental confession to a priest. It would be appropriate that he does this before receiving the Holy Eucharist again.
Q. Can some people see angels or ghosts? –Anonymous
A. Yes, but only on very very rare occasions. Even in the Bible very few people got to see the angels…or ghosts.
Q. Is it in the Bible that supports the principle that the man is the head of the household? My wife and I are temporarily disagreeing on this topic. –Anonymous
A. Scripture does respond to this very question and it is found in Ephesians 5:21-33. I recommend that you and your wife pray to the Holy Spirit first for guidance and then read the Word of God. This is the passage that includes the line, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head to his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself is the savior of the body.” Obviously, this Biblical imagery requires a little bit more explanation and discussion. I’m only quoting directly from what St. Paul said so please tell your wife not to shoot the messenger. [And let me know if you need a place to stay after you have your talk.]
September 25, 2011
Q. Are there any small pocketsize prayer books that you suggest that could be carried around and used throughout the day as prayer is needed? –Anonymous
A. There are several to choose from and you might want to drop by our local Catholic bookstore in Purcellville at the Christian Shoppe to pick up the kind you prefer. Years ago I do recall a small popular one called St. Joseph Pocket Prayer Book that has a variety of practical prayers. In high school my favorite daily prayer book was The Pieta Prayer Book which is still widely available. But if you ask me, the best pocketsize prayer is the Rosary. It is easily accessible, very simple, and incredibly effective! This is the one I still carry with me every single day. There are How To Pray The Rosary guides and pocket Rosaries available in the church narthex and parish office. [However, if you’re one of those techno type people, you could have access to practically every Catholic prayer ever written in the world right in your pocket by having an iPhone or any other smart phone by using the internet or the prayer apps available. The iPieta app for iPhones contains tons and tons of traditional prayers and is the one I use. There’s even a simple exorcism prayer in there that lay people could use!]
Q. What makes the holy water “holy”? –Anonymous
A. The blessing of the church is passed on to the ordinary water once the priest blesses it. At that point the water is now sacred and called holy water and can be used for various blessings including blessing ourselves.
Q. What is your full name at birth? –Anonymous
A. You are nameless until your parents or some other legitimate authority has given you a name.
Q. How can one stop telling lies? –Matthew Thomas
A. By telling the truth! For those who may have difficulty telling the truth, it is best to pray for the grace to be able to speak the truth. We should turn to Our Lord for help because Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When we tell the truth we are happy but lying makes us unhappy because we are always afraid of being found out. It is this fear that makes us feel like we are enslaved by our own made up stories. Living truthfully gives us the best taste of living freely because Jesus also says, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Q. During confession how does the priest decide which prayers the penitents should say? –Anonymous
A. There are really no set guidelines what prayers we are to prescribe to the penitents. During our “confession training” in the seminary we were only given suggestions on what penance we should give. It is a judgment call for the individual priest to make. We just pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance on this matter. The most important part in confession is the penitent was sorry for the sins committed and has received absolution from the priest.
October 2, 2011
Q. Is the manger still standing in Bethlehem? –Celine Fink
A. The place where Jesus was born is still intact in Bethlehem where the Church of the Nativity was built. I actually have been there twice on a Holy Land pilgrimage in 2008 and 2009. The site where Jesus was born was actually more of a cave that the shepherds used to keep watch of their flock. What is believed to be the place of Jesus’ birth is clearly marked inside the church. The crib, traditionally believed to have been used by Jesus, is now preserved in a special reliquary enshrined below the main altar at St. Mary Major Basilica (Santa Maria Maggiore) in Rome. It is brought upstairs to the main altar during Christmas. This was my favorite major basilica and no matter what time of the year you visit the crib of Jesus it felt like it was Christmas season.
Q. How do you know what your Guardian Angel’s name is? –Moira Bauer
A. We don’t really know our Guardian Angel’s name but we will find out in heaven. We can name our angel pretty much any way we are comfortable with. The holy priest Saint Padre Pio used to call upon his angel a lot to help him but didn’t know his name so he just called him Guardian. I could picture him saying in Italian, “Ciao, Custode, vieni qua!” In English this translates to, “Hello, Guardian, come here!” I heard in American slang this could become something like, “Yo, holy homeboy, wazzup!” [Homeboy is supposed to be the equivalent of a close friend. I only hope what I was told was correct!] By the way, October 2 is the Feast of the Guardian Angels.
Q. I asked my mother-in-law the other day if she was going to church and she replied, “Absolutely not!” I asked her how was she going to give her tithe to the church. She asked where does it say we have to tithe our money to the church. I replied, “In the Bible.” She stated that since God didn’t write the Bible then it is not his word. Can I request a religious answer that I can pass on to her? –Anonymous
A. God did not physically write the Bible but inspired human authors to write what God wanted written down in what we refer to as the sacred scriptures (or the Bible). St. Peter teaches, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God” (1 Peter 1:20-21). Saint Paul adds, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As far as tithing, the word tithe comes from the Hebrew word meaning a tenth. God asked that a tenth of people’s harvest or wages be returned to God by giving it in support of the church (The Temple or the synagogue) and the priests of the church (Levite priests in the Old Testament). You can read about this in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and Leviticus 27:30. One thing we need to keep in mind is that everything in the world really belongs to God. When we give a tenth or 10% of what we earn we are really only giving back what belongs to God in the first place. In reality, tithing is simply God telling us that whatever he gives us we can keep 90% of it and we only need to return 10% of it. Hey, that’s not a bad deal, is it? And when we give God his 10% he will reward us even more in heaven. [My question is, if God can survive with 10%, why can’t our government?]
October 9, 2011
Q. If a police officer or soldier kills someone on duty, is it a sin? –Hannah Shouse. When you are in war and kill someone, is that considered a mortal sin? –Anonymous
A. As long as the soldier or police officer was following the proper procedure during police duty or a soldier at war there is no sin committed at all. It would be considered an act of self-defense.
Q. What is an indulgence? –(Last year’s) 7th Grade Confirmation Class
A. A simple explanation without using any fancy terms, an indulgence helps release a soul (person) in purgatory. The 2 kinds of indulgences are plenary and partial. A plenary indulgence is a complete remission of punishment. This means those who have gained a plenary indulgence completely bypasses purgatory. A partial indulgence will shorten one’s time in purgatory. Only God knows how much length of time is shortened by the partial indulgence. There are 2 myths that are important to know about indulgences. First of all, indulgences never forgive sins. Second, indulgences are never for sale. They are freely received. Indulgences are granted by the Catholic Church and are gained by living persons through prayers and devotions with specific indulgences (either plenary or partial) attached to them. For a list of official prayers with indulgences and the official church teachings on indulgences, please go to the link at the end of this response. You may need to scroll for a few pages in the PDF file to get to the prayers. http://www.freecatholicebooks.com/books/indulgences.pdf
Q. My friend asked me why Mass is important and I did not know what to say. –Matthew Tomasa
A. You can tell your friend that God asks us to go to Mass because he wants us to honor and worship him at his sacred house. One of God’s commandments says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done either by you or your son or daughter….” (Exodus 20:8-10). Mass is a very important part of our Lord’s Day (Sabbath) because it’s when we can receive God in the Eucharist. Jesus commanded us to receive his body and blood and the Mass is the only place in the world that can provide the Eucharist: “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:53-54). For those who love visiting God’s house here one earth, it’s a good sign that they are the ones who will most likely be with God in a paradise called heaven for eternity. And for those who hate going to church, it is a bad sign that unless they have a change of heart they will never live in God’s beautiful kingdom but in eternity’s “smoking section.”
Q. Why do some crucifixes have the INRI sign at the top and the others, like the one in our sanctuary, do not? –Anonymous
A. Some artist place more details on the crucifix than the others. I can only guess that certain artists want to focus more on the concept of the crucifixion as the redemptive act that saved us from our sins rather than the details of how the crucifixion was carried out. Personally, I prefer to have the crucifix and other sacred images have more details than less. More details lead to a more accurate way of telling the whole story.
October 16, 2011
Q. How is the communion bread made? –Anonymous
A. Communion breads are made by a simple mixing of wheat flour and water and then baked. Bleaching them is permitted by the church to give them a polished white look and easier visibility for those far away from the altar.
Q. What is the difference between Catholic and other religions? –Brie, age 11
A. The biggest difference is that the Catholic Church is the only religion ever founded by God by sending his own Son, Jesus Christ, to establish it (Matthew 16:18-20). Jesus entrusted the Catholic Church to the chief apostle and bishop of Rome, St. Peter, and his successors (the popes) everything that the people needed to know for salvation. With the exception of the Jewish faith (the faith ancestors of the Catholic Church), all the other religions (Christian and non-Christian) have human founders based on the doctrines they formulated. Check any legitimate history book, encyclopedia, Google or any search engine on the internet and you will find that there is no human founder of the Catholic Church other than Jesus Christ.
Q. Is there a right way to pray? Is it okay to bring your non-Catholic friend to Mass?? –Anonymous
A. There are many different ways of praying properly but the most important is to pray and believe that we are actually talking to God face to face. Avoiding distractions as best as we can allows us to give God our loving attention and keeps us better focused in prayer. And yes, it is perfectly fine to bring a non-Catholic friend to Mass. Our worship service is open to everyone. Just make sure to let your friend know that Holy Communion in reserved only for regular practicing Catholics. You may need to explain to your friend that even Catholics must first be instructed and receive First Penance (confession) before they can receive communion.
Q. Why don’t we have a statue of our patron Saint Francis de Sales somewhere on our church grounds or inside the church? –Maryanne Schultejans
A. I’ve asked the same question when I first arrived here but so far no one seems to know the answer. One person mentioned that the former pastor, Father Posey, was looking into getting one for the church before he received his new parish assignment. Right now all we have is an icon image of Saint Francis de Sales in the narthex. But I have been pondering about placing an outdoor statue somewhere near our soon-to-be parish center because the parish hall is projected to be named De Sales Hall.
Q. Why does the pope wear a tall hat? –Abby Stewart, age 7
A. The tall pointed-shaped hat is called a mitre. In Greek this word means headband or turban. Bishops have worn the mitre since ancient times as a symbol of their spiritual authority. The pope wears a mitre because he is the head of all the bishops in the world.
Q. How do we know if our Guardian Angel is a boy or a girl? –Ellie Creighton
A. Angels are pure spirits and are neither male nor female. So you can choose to name or picture your angel any way you wish!
October 23, 2011
Q. Who finished the Bible after Jesus died? –Daniel D.
A. Jesus did not physically write any part of the Bible. The entire New Testament section of the Bible was written a few years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Different saintly authors wrote the 27 New Testament books: Peter, John, Matthew, Jude, James, Paul, Mark and an unknown author who wrote the book of Hebrews.
Q. Is there more good or bad in the world? –Ryan Thomas
A. Definitely far more good! God made the world a good creation. It is just unfortunate that some people continue to use their free will in a bad way that cause a lot of bad things to happen. A few bad choices can make it appear sometimes that there are more bad things happening in the world than good. The normal good things that happen don’t usually make the news, only the bad ones.
Q. What happens if you throw up the Eucharist? –Anonymous
A. If that happens, most likely you’re still in church during Mass because the Eucharist dissolves fairly quickly. Just make sure that someone informs the priest, deacon, usher or Eucharistic minister immediately. We will take care of it from there. We will retrieve the Eucharist and place it in a special sink in the church sacristy called a sacrarium that drains directly into the ground instead of the sewer. That is the proper way for treating the Eucharist when it is no longer consumable.
Q. If a church burns down, where would Mass be? –Faye Bauer
A. Many parishes rent an available local school for celebrating the Sunday Masses if they are unable to use their own church. Many parishes actually do that especially while they are still constructing their new church.
Q. If you are in a play or movie and you have to say God’s name in vain, and you are a Catholic, is it a sin? –Faye Bauer
A. Yes, and it would be a sin whether one is a Catholic or not. There is no reason for anyone to say God’s name in vain. God specifically forbids it in his commandments. If we are asked to say God’s name in vain we have the right to refuse the request.
Q. Why couldn’t Pontius Pilate stand up for Jesus? –Sarah Dunk
A. He was too worried about what the people would think of him. He gave in to the people’s pressure even though he knew it was wrong. This is a lesson for all of us to do what is always right regardless of what other people think. People who are especially in a leadership position know that doing the right thing is not always going to be a popular decision. [Believe me, I know this one for a fact—even here in Purcellville! And I’m sure many of you in leadership position can relate to this as well.] But let us remember this one important point. Each time we choose to make the wrong decisions due to public pressure is basically pulling another Pontius Pilate act of crucifying Jesus all over again. The right way is to do only what we truly believe Jesus wants us to do regardless of what other people think. Those who follow this principle will not be afraid to stand up before Jesus on Judgment Day. My personal motto in following the Lord goes something like this: “If you want the crowd to follow you, don’t follow the crowd!”
October 30, 2011
Q. Did John the Baptist speak the same language as Jesus? Emily McCaffrey
A. The Bible records that they both spoke to each other so they must have had the same language (Matthew 3:13-15). Jesus spoke Hebrew Aramaic.
Q. If you drink holy water, will your body be blessed? –Anonymous
A. Yes. But you don’t need to drink holy water in order to be blessed. Blessing yourself with holy water is sufficient. There are no extra credit graces for drinking it.
Q. Where does holy water come from? –Jack Czarnetzky
A. It is actually regular water from the faucet. Once the water is placed in the tank one of the priests prays the blessing over it and it becomes holy water. Our holy water tank is located on the right side of the church as soon as you walk inside the glass doors. Feel free to take some home with you. You can use a holy water bottle or just about any container (except perhaps a beer can) to keep the holy water. Or take one of our free holy water bottles next to the tank.
Q. Do you have to be sinless when you die to go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. That would be nice but most people who die are not perfectly sinless. You would need to be free of unconfessed mortal sins (serious or deadly sins) at the time of death in order to go to heaven. If you died with only venial sins (light sins) you will go to heaven but may need to be purified or purged by God of your non-deadly sins in a place we refer to as purgatory. In the Bible St. John the apostle writes, “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 John 5:16-17). This is why making a good thorough confession is very important. The sacrament of penance takes away the mortal sins including those that we have honestly forgotten to confess.
Q. If you are unbaptized and you don’t believe God at all, but close to your death you decided that you do believe, will you go to heaven? –Casey
A. Yes, it is very possible. At the crucifixion one of the criminals who at first did not believe in Jesus had a change of heart around the final hour of his life. Even though he only believed in Jesus shortly before his death and did not have the opportunity to get baptized, he still made it to heaven. We know this from one of the last words of Jesus on the cross, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:33-43).
Q. Where do priests go for confession, do they go to other priests? –Anonymous
A. When I was a young boy I used to imagine that priests went to confession by looking in the mirror, confess their sins looking at their image, and then bouncing absolution from the mirror. It wasn’t long when I found out that wasn’t true. Yes, all priests (bishops and the pope too!) have to go to another priest for confession.
November 6, 2011
Q. Is it a sin to rip the Bible? –Anonymous
A. If it were done purposely, yes, it would be a serious sin because the Bible is the sacred written word of God.
Q. When you eat the Eucharist, do you crush God? –Anonymous
A. No, because God is perfectly indestructible. We “eat” (consume) the Eucharist because this is the way God has chosen for us to be united with him in a very special way and be saved: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Q. If you are from a different religion and you want to be a Catholic, should you stop worshiping your other god and start worshiping our true God? –Anthony Cusat
A. Yes, that’s correct. Once you have recognized the one and true God it is only most appropriate to stop praying to a false God: “I, the Lord, am your God…. You shall not have other gods besides me” (Exodus 20:1-3).
Q. When an animal has rabies and you have to kill it, is it murder? –Anonymous
A. No. Murder only applies to humans unjustly killing humans.
Q. When I went to a Christian camp this past summer, a girl told me about going to a counselor who told her that she had “past lives” as an ancient Chinese doctor among others. Then another girl said that she had the same thing happened to her. I told them that God says that there is no such thing as reincarnation but I was not sure what to think. H. T.
A. You are absolutely right with what you said. Jesus teaches that there is a judgment and resurrection of the body for every single individual human being at the end of time. This would be a clear rejection of the concept of reincarnation that we switch from one body to another during our existence. We believe that new human life begins at conception and that it has never had a prior existence. In the end Jesus will judge us whether we are worthy of heaven or not based on the life that we lived.
Q. Do you think we could ask God to “pray away” the deer in Loudoun County so that we could finally drive safely on the country roads? –Anonymous
A. I read a State Farm insurance study last year that between July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009 there were 2.4 million vehicle collisions with a deer and an 18% rise from 5 years before. The article said something like there’s deer-related accident in the U.S. once every 26 seconds. West Virginia ranks at the top for deer collisions while Virginia is #10 on the list. So for safety reasons I think that would be a fair intention to ask as a personal prayer request. You could also pray that the deer hunters would succeed in their hunt so that the venison meat would be put to good use especially in the Hunters for the Hungry program. If you pray that they just move to another state then motorists there would face the same problem and the people there would just pray that the deer would go back to where they came from—Virginia!
November 13, 2011
Q. What material is used to make the tabernacle, chalice and candlesticks? –Regina Terreri
A. They can be made from different types of precious metals such as gold, silver, bronze, brass, steel or pewter. Many of the materials are gold plated because gold signifies we’re giving God our very best. Since gold is also the symbol for royalty it signifies our recognition of Jesus as the King of Kings. The tabernacle is usually made of solid steel (often either gold or silver plated) permanently built to the altar to make sure that the sacred place where the Eucharist is kept remains secure and cannot be easily broken into.
Q. How do we help someone who is depressed? –Anonymous
A. One of the charitable ways to help someone who is depressed is to offer lots of positive thoughts and outlook about life. Praying for them and with them also will give a tremendous boost of hope. We also should encourage them to seek professional medical help if they have not done so.
Q. Would the world be perfect if Lucifer wasn’t so prideful as to convince some of the other angels to go down (to hell) with him? –Paul Rosette
A. Yes, the world would likely have been off to a much better start. While Adam & Eve were the first humans to commit sin they certainly were not the very first to introduce sin to God’s creation. It was Lucifer and the rebellious angels who committed the very first sin. Because of their sin there was already imperfection in the universe prior to the creation of the world and the humans. Even though Adam & Eve were made perfectly sinless by God and given a free will, the Garden of Eden was not all perfect because there was already an evil spirit lurking about in the form of a serpent that convinced them to commit sin by disobeying God.
Q. How do we get to heaven? –Bradley
A. By faithfully following Jesus. Our Lord said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Bible also tells us, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). The complete way of Jesus and his salvation teaching is found in the only church that he founded (Matthew 16:18). And we happen to belong to the very same original Christian Church that is simply known today as The Roman Catholic Church! So to get to heaven is to follow the ways of Jesus through the guidance of his Church. See you at Mass on Sundays!
Q. Can we start saying the new Mass parts a little in advance to get us a head start? –SBC
A. Since it’s only two weeks away, it would probably be best to just wait till then. But you do have a good point because our bishop gave permission to have some of the new sung parts of the Mass (e.g., Gloria, Sanctus) to be used as of September 4 this year if the parish was ready for it. As you may have noticed, we weren’t ready but we were able to devote 2 weekends in a row to preach and prepare our parish community for the upcoming new changes.
November 20, 2011
Q. Do we have to kneel, make the sign of the cross, and fold our hands when we pray? –Anonymous
A. When we are in a liturgical setting (public official prayers in church) such as the Mass, we should follow the prescribed sacred gestures that you mentioned. When we are in a private group gathering, we should also pray following the proper gestures that we normally do. When we are by ourselves praying, we can do this anywhere at anytime and we could just be sitting, standing or lying down in silence having a personal conversation with the Lord without doing any of the formal gestures you mentioned. But it’s a good habit to always start our prayers with at least the sign of the cross. By doing so we are honoring and calling upon our God, the Holy Trinity, and we also recall the means by which Jesus saved us from our sins.
Q. In a nutshell, what is the Gabriel Project? –SBC
A. Gabriel Project’s mission is to offer short or long-term support for pregnant women through the parish level. Their assistance is not restricted to women in financial needs but to any pregnant women or women who just had babies and are in need of any type of assistance. Assistance available includes physical, spiritual, material and emotional support for the mother and is done in an unconditional, loving and non-judgmental manner. The toll free number to call is 866-444-3553 and a “Gabriel Angel” (nickname for the Gabriel Project trained volunteer) will immediately fly right into your…I mean, will contact you soon.
Q. How long do we stay in purgatory? –Olivia Haller
A. Until we are completely spiritually purified and worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Only God knows how long we actually go through the state of purgation. What we know is that nothing and no one is allowed in God’s kingdom that has any sign of imperfection. There is a beautiful description of the new heaven described in the Bible (Revelation chapter 21) and it says that only the perfectly pure may enter in it especially in verse 21:26, “The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Q. How can I ask forgiveness for my past sins since I am too embarrassed to mention them in confession? –Anonymous
A. You are not alone feeling that way. But to have a guaranteed forgiveness for your past sins it is important to go to confession to a priest. Jesus empowered the apostles (and their successors) the power to forgive sins since the first Easter night: “He (Jesus) breathed on them (apostles) and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23). You may need to talk to a priest about getting past the “embarrassment” feeling or read up on the beauty of the sacrament of Penance. Be assured of complete confidentiality when you go to confession. Keep in mind that it is Jesus you are really speaking to when you confess your sins and not the priest as a man. It is Jesus himself who will absolve you from your sins and you’ll never ever have to worry about your past sins again.
November 27, 2011
Q. What is below the statue of Mary’s feet near the altar? –Ally W, 6th Grade
A. Mary is standing on top of a serpent and the image of the earth with stars on it. It is intersected by a golden crescent moon. The statue is based on the image of Our Lady of Grace. Its inspiration comes from Revelation 12:1 that says, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Q. Why do people call (their sponsors) Godfather and Godmother? –Anonymous (with a nice smiley face & question mark drawing)
A. Since the earliest days of Christianity we’ve had people other than the parents who were present to assist at baptisms and referred to as spiritual parents. Their role is to help lead the child towards God; so the term “godparents” came to be. Its root goes back to ancient Jewish times when the family chooses a godfather to assist the rabbi performing the important circumcision ritual on their child. The godfather also was called upon for the good spiritual and physical welfare of the child. There is a nice brief history of this found in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia and can be accessed online at: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6730-godfather
Q. If Jesus was a Jew, then why isn’t the Catholic Church Jewish and why aren’t we? –Nick
A. The reality is the Catholic Church is truly Jewish and Christian at the same time! The Jews believe in the God of Abraham and in the entire Jewish Scriptures (aka The Old Testament). Catholics most certainly believe that too! The Old Testament prophesied that a Messiah, a savior, would come and save the world. For Christians the savior is none other than Jesus Christ who already came, suffered and died on the cross to save us. Some Jews believed him and some did not. Jesus was rejected by many of the Jewish leaders and that’s the reason why he founded a new church upon Peter that later became known as the Catholic Church (see Matthew 16:18-20, “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”). Those who believed in Jesus such as Our Blessed Mother, John the Baptist, the apostles, Mary Magdalene, etc., were the very first Jewish Christian Catholics! We differ with the traditional Jews because we accept the teachings of Jesus Christ as a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies as found in ancient the Christian Tradition and The New Testament and they do not. We believe that the complete sacred scriptures contain both The Old & New Testaments.
Q. Why is the pope’s residence in Rome instead of in Jerusalem? –Anonymous
A. St. Peter, the first pope, moved and established his apostolic mission from the Holy Land to Rome a few years after Jesus ascended into heaven. During St. Peter’s time Rome was considered the capital of the world and believed by the apostles to be the best city to spread the Gospel and Christianity to as many people in the world. St. Peter was martyred and buried at the place where the great St. Peter’s Basilica now stands. Since the first pope lived, governed and died in Rome, it has become the true home of the succeeding popes. A small section of Rome now called The Vatican belongs to the Catholic Church and is the smallest country in the world at .17 square miles or 109 acres.
December 4, 2011
Q. Why did people get engaged when they were only 12 or 13 years ago? If that’s the case, I would be married at 13 or 14. –Sydney Sparbanie
A. Years ago it was not uncommon for most cultures for the youth to reach maturity at a much younger age compared to today’s modern society. But there are still a few cultures that have young ladies get engaged in their early teens today. It is believed that Our Blessed Mother was about 14 when she was engaged to St. Joseph. The Catholic Church has set the minimum age for a man to get married at 16 and for a woman at 14 as stated in Canon 1083.1: “A man cannot validly enter marriage before the completion of his sixteenth year of age, nor a woman before the completion of her fourteenth year.” Bishops can set a higher minimum age for their region but not lower it. Since we’re living in modern times and in a modern society, I hope you don’t get engaged until a very long time after your teenage years, Sydney!
Q. Were fish and other sea creatures included in Noah’s ark? –Shannon, Kayleigh and Jillian
A. No, because animals that could survive in the water did not need to go in the ark. Also, glass fish tanks were not invented yet during the time of Noah so he couldn’t even have them around as pets for the voyage!
Q. If you tell someone your penance, does it ruin your confession? –Anonymous
A. No, not at all. You could even tell others what you confessed but that’s not always the wise thing to do. It is only the priest who cannot discuss with others what he hears in confession.
Q. Father, I have a family member (spouse’s side) who lacks morals and character. A couple of years ago I wrote her a letter explaining to her that I could not continue to overlook the bad choices she was making and I did not want my own kids to be around her. She got very upset and refuses to go to family functions when I am there. I feel bad for making everyone uncomfortable but also feel I did the right thing. In your opinion, should I try to fix our relationship even though she still does not display good morals and character? –Anonymous
A. It is always desirable to fix broken relationships but sometimes this is not always possible especially if someone persists in living an immoral and scandalous life. When Jesus spent time with public sinners such as the corrupt tax collectors, prostitutes and adulterers, he made it clear to all of them that he disapproved of their actions and invited them to a life of conversion. A lot of people skip the part when Jesus said, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore” (John 8:11b). Scripture tells us that you did the right thing of keeping your kids away from a person of bad influence: “Do not be led astray: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). This shouldn’t sound strange to us especially since families normally would keep their kids away from others who are suffering from an infectious disease (e.g., colds, chicken pox, fever, etc.). Why would it then be wrong for someone to keep her kids safe from someone who could spiritually ruin the good health of the souls of her children and be lost in hell forever?
December 11, 2011
Q. Why do we not ring the church bell in the tower anymore? –Molly Warndorf
A. Because it doesn’t work. It wasn’t working when I arrived here in 2009 and I had it repaired but it was malfunctioning again not long after. The rope does not properly recoil back to its place and gets stuck. Someday I’d like to put an electronic bell, speaker and timer up there as now found in most churches. After all, church bell ringers like Quasimodo are just not as commonly available to find anymore. Who’s going to ring the bell every hour during the day and 5 minutes before each Mass to alert the people?
Q. When I had young children and sought to attend Mass, my wife and I alternated staying home with the three young ones while the other parent attended. That way, we were able to participate and not have the children disrupt the service if they could not behave. What is the policy now? It seems as though many parents/grandparents do not care if loud or unruly children disrupt someone. What is your advice? –Tim McCants
A. Years ago there was an ‘unwritten rule’ that the appropriate protocol for parents is to alternate going to Mass on Sunday (same day) so that their children did not get in the way of theirs and/or others’ worship. Many families do not have the luxury of time as others on Sunday to do this so more parents now use a more common alternative way: train the kids to behave properly in the house of God. When we see large families who come to church and their kids, including toddlers, and seem very comfortable and reverent, it is not by chance that they are that way. The parents have taught them to be respectful and devout in church from the earliest possible days of their childhood. Church life becomes easier for them to adjust to when they have been going to Mass all their lives. Either system works but I personally prefer that the whole family go to Mass together. My four brothers and I were raised this way and I don’t recall any of us ever misbehaved in church. But there is one protocol that families must observe. When their child begins to make a loud noise, it is only appropriate for a parent (or older sibling) to immediately take the child to the back of the church (narthex) to continue participating in the Mass. The people in the congregation have the right to worship and hear the Word of God without much distraction. This question was quite timely because I received an email recently from one of the young moms in our parish with several children who gave the testimony that their life as a family became even much better when they started going to Mass together with their little ones. She made an excellent point that if kids are taught at their earliest to behave properly in front of adults and in school, why not get their training on how to behave at church as well? Now these parents have the benefit of seeing their kids enjoy being at Mass and the pleasure of seeing the older ones active in their respective Sunday ministry!
Q. Why do people do abortion? It’s just murder! –“Angelique the Magnificent”
A. Good point, Angelique the Magnificent! Part of the reason is that many don’t recognize that unborn children are real children made in the image and likeness of God like the rest of us. Let us continue to pray that those contemplating abortion will have a change of heart and recognize that every human life is sacred and has the right to live.
December 18, 2011
Q. Why do we have 4 Advent candles? –Olivia Haller
A. They represent the 4 Sundays of Advent before Christmas.
Q. Is there a difference in the meaning of “Amen” (ay-men) versus “Amen” (aah-men)? Does the pronunciation signify something different? –Anonymous
A. There is no religious difference. Regardless of how it is pronounced it means, “so be it” or “truly (verily).” The difference in pronunciation comes from where the people grew up. In Hebrew it is pronounced with the short ‘a’ (aah-men). A majority of people especially from the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and most other countries pronounce it similar to the Hebrew with a noticeable accent at times. But if you’re from the U.S., it would depend which region you come from. The southerners would most likely use the long ‘a’ (aaaaayyy-men!), the Midwest tend to use the short ‘a’ (aah-men)—probably due to the heavy European migration years ago and the Hispanics would likely use the short ‘a’ as well. The northeast is a mix because of its multicultural ethnicity. But in the far west like California, they pronounce “Amen” in whatever way it gives them…the “experience!”
Q. Do the Advent wreath and candles have to be blessed by a priest? –Faye Bauer
A. The ones we use at church, yes. It is part of the Mass ritual. We usually do that with the 1st Mass celebrated on the 1st Sunday of Advent. If you have the Advent wreath and candles at home, it would be nice if you can have them blessed but it is not necessary.
Q. My wife and I are going to try and have a child and both of us badly want a little boy. Do you know of any special prayers or verses in the Bible that may help achieve this? –Anonymous
A. In the Bible, there is a beautiful story of a holy woman named Hannah who begged God in prayer for a long time to bless her with a little boy. I recommend that you follow the example of Hannah in continuing to pray to God for your intention. There is no official prayer for this but praying the Rosary is what I would recommend; and when possible, come to a Eucharistic adoration as well. Read 1 Samuel 1-2:21 for the amazing story of Hannah. When God granted Hannah’s wish, she and her husband were blessed with a son whom they named, Samuel. He became one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. Hannah was also thrilled that God happily blessed her to have 3 more sons and 2 daughters. There is a patron saint for those who are praying to have a baby. His name is Saint Gerard Majella. Here are a couple of links that includes prayers and a novena to have a baby through the intercession of Saint Gerard Majella: www.saintgerard.com/ and
Q. If you don’t believe in God, will you go to heaven or not? –Lucas Roach
A. You won’t. There are no atheists (non-believers of God) in heaven. People who want nothing to do with God on earth will get their wish when they die: God will not have anything to do with them either for all eternity. The Bible tells us, “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt; none one of them does what is right” (Psalm 53:2). There are no fools in heaven, only angels and saints!
No Ask the Priest for December 25, 2011
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